by Caoimhe Hegarty

Tributes have poured in for one of Mid Ulster’s leading business men, Gilbert Crawford.

The 76 year-old passed away in hospital on Tuesday after a short illness.

Hundreds of mourners attended Gilbert’s funeral service which was held in Maghera Presbyterian Church on Thursday.

Following the funeral service, a spokesperson for the Crawford family took to social media to express their thanks to all who those who had turned out to pay their respects.

A post on Facebook on Thursday afternoon read: “Thank you to everyone who attended Gilbert's funeral today from near and afar. With such a huge turnout of people including those who travelled from across the water, it was a true reflection of how much he was respected by everyone and it meant a lot to the Crawford family. Gilbert will be sadly missed by a lot of people in all aspects of life.”

The late Mr Crawford was managing director at R Crawford’s Department Store in Maghera, an auctioneer and property owner.

The Crawford business was first established back 1900. Gilbert had worked in the store since leaving school.

Mr Crawford was also a prominent figure in agriculture circles and had an international reputation for breeding pedigree cattle.

Among those to pay tribute to Mr Crawford, was local councillor, George Shiels.

“Gilbert was a great personal friend to me and I would like to offer my deepest condolences to his family at this very sad time,” said Mr Shiels.

He continued: “Gilbert was part and parcel of Maghera. He was a large part of the economic development of Maghera during the second half of the Twentieth Century and into the new Millennium. He was a well-known figure to the people of Maghera and great friend to many,” said councillor Shiels.

Expressing their condolences to the Crawford family, a spokesperson for Maghera Historical Society  said: “On behalf of the officers and members of Maghera Historical Society, I would like to offer our deepest sympathy to the immediate family and wider family circle of Gilbert Crawford. For those that had not the pleasure of knowing him, Gilbert was a leading business man in the town of Maghera and was well-known in the world of business and pedigree cattle which he enjoyed. He carried on the grocery business started by this father Robert, and even during the dark days of the troubles when many Maghera businesses were bombed, including R.Crawfords, he re-opened his shop in temporary premises and carried on keeping Maghera supplied with their daily essentials.

“In recent years, the business went from strength to strength as it expanded and purchased adjacent businesses to be added to the Crawfords empire. Gilbert always had an active role in his businesses and was a down to earth gentleman who always had a word for everyone he met and any people around the town will testify that he always tried to help people where he could,” said the spokesperson.

Northern Ireland Charolais Club are also among the many to pay tribute to the late Mr Crawford.

“It is with great sadness that we remember one of our premier breeders in Northern Ireland. Gilbert Crawford will always hold a special place in the NICC memory book. Taking many championships and representing the breed on Interbreed teams across many shows often accepting the top honours. He has also led the market achieving top prices on many occasions and had a great eye for picking up a top quality animal on his travels.

“Gilbert was a huge supporter of our breed and renowned not only in NI but across the UK, Ireland and the rest of the world. He was not only respected and revered by Charolais breeders, but also our many friends from other breeds. He loved to encourage old and young, and always had a great sense of fun and celebration. We have lost a great supporter and friend and pass our deepest sympathy to his family and his many great friends who will feel his departure most,” said the club.

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