Family pays tribute to ‘Big Man’

Cllr Evelyn Robinson, with Ballymena Councillor Beth Clyde, Mrs Jeanette Mills and Ballymena Alderman Maurice Mills pictured at Sunday's  Memorial Service of Thanksgiving for the Life and Ministry of the Rev and Rt. Hon. The Lord Bannside at the Ulster Hall, Belfast.
Cllr Evelyn Robinson, with Ballymena Councillor Beth Clyde, Mrs Jeanette Mills and Ballymena Alderman Maurice Mills pictured at Sunday's Memorial Service of Thanksgiving for the Life and Ministry of the Rev and Rt. Hon. The Lord Bannside at the Ulster Hall, Belfast.

Belfast’s Ulster Hall was packed on Sunday for a public memorial service for former First Minister and DUP leader Ian Paisley who died last month aged 88 following a period of ill health.

Hundreds of Ian Paisley’s closest friends joined dignitaries at the public service held a month after his private family funeral service.

Among the 830 invited guests were First and Deputy First Ministers Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness; Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Theresa Villiers; Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond as well as House of Commons speaker John Bercow and former Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern. DUP politicians there included MP William McCrea, MLAs Paul Frew; Willie Hay; Mervyn Storey and Edwin Poots. Councillors from Ballymena and Ballymoney attended as Rev Paisley was Freeman of both towns.

Addressing those in attendance, Lord Bannside’s widow Baroness Paisley paid warm tribute to her late husband, saying: “Ian was often referred to as ‘the big man’, and he was certainly that. He was a big man with a big heart.”

Speaking about his last moments, Baroness Paisley said: “His home was his castle and he was at his happiest and most relaxed there. It is the place he would have chosen from which to enter his heavenly home, and God granted his request.”

The ceremony concluded with a minute’s silence broken by a recording of the former First Minister’s voice, quoting from the hymn, Amazing Grace.