Obituary: Mary Bruce
Alliance News
April-June 2014

Members of South Down Alliance Association were greatly saddened by the death of their oldest member, Mary Bruce, at the age of 103. Mary was a founder member of the Alliance Party and did not retire from active participation on the South Down Alliance Committee, which she hosted in Newcastle, until her 102nd year.

Mary was a most remarkable person with many interests, including travel to most parts of the world. She will be missed by all who knew her.

Relatives of Mary were very pleased at the presence of David Ford at her funeral in Castlewellan.

Kieran McCarthy MLA, Charles Kennedy MP, and Peter Copeland, at Alliance Party election fundraiser, 5 November 2003, Culloden Hotel, Co. Down, Northern Ireland

Alliance News
January-March 2010

Peter Copeland (4 July 1939-17 January 2010)

Peter Copeland from Newtownards was born on 4 July 1939 and died suddenly on 17 January 2010 as a result of a severe stroke.

He attended Regent House School and went on to Queen’s University, Belfast, where he studied economics. After graduating, he joined Hugh Smylie and Sons before he entered the family firm — the Ulster Print Works. Following the change in ownership of the firm he found a new career in personnel management and was a lecturer in that subject at the Belfast Institute of Further and Higher education until his retirement in 1999.

Peter had a quiet but engaging manner but this did not mask his capacity for making many lasting friendships nor his loyalty to his family, church, town or his ever present willingness to help others. These traits were amply demonstrated by his service in the eldership of First Presbyterian Church, Newtownards, and in the interest he took in his visitation duties and by his service as a past treasurer of the church.

In the wider community, Peter was currently vice-chair of the Newtownards Citizens Advice Bureau, the honorary treasurer of Ards Historical Society, and in the past honorary treasurer of the Institute of Personnel Management. He was a founder member of Newtownards Round Table and was an active member of the 41 Club. Peter was a staunch supporter of work in improving community relations and for many years gave much of his time and support to the work of the Alliance Party both locally in the Strangford constituency and at the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Peter was a very capable musician. A fine clarinet player, he regularly played with the Ards Choral and Orchestral Society and in recent years he enjoyed making music with the Playing for Pleasure Orchestra where he was a very popular member.

A keen sportsman, he was a fine squash player but particularly hone in the golfing world. He was an enthusiastic member of the Royal Belfast senior cup team and was proud to have been a member of the team which contested the final of the Irish Senior Cup at Killarney against Royal Dublin. He was honoured by the Royal Belfast Golf Club with the captaincy in 2007.

These few facts give little indication of Peter the person: as devoted family man, member of the church, musician, sportsman and one who sought to serve the community in so many ways.

Peter will be remembered by his family as a devoted husband to Margaret, proud father to David, dear father-in-law to Kate and loving grandfather to his grandson Edward. He will also be remembered by the wider community as a wonderful friend and colleague in so many areas of life. He is and will be sadly missed.

Alliance News
January-March 2010

Bill Barbour (1920-2009), Anne Barbour (1926-2009)

Alliance members will have been saddened to learn of the deaths of Anne and Bill Barbour in such tragic circumstances late last year. For many years, Bill Barbour was the heart and soul of the Alliance Party in Fermanagh, having joined the party at the beginning, acting as Association Chair for many years as well as being an election agent and council candidate in his own right.

Bill Barbour was raised in Bangor to parents who he often said had one common interest — spending money. Although the family had been reasonably wealthy on both sides, his mother’s profligacy was such that the family lived in occasional bouts of splendour interspersed with long periods of penury.

Bill’s ferocious intelligence earned him a scholarship to study Classics at Trinity College Dublin. After graduating with First Class Honours, he was recruited into code-breaking at Bletchley Park, but by 1944 felt that the code-breaking was largely over, and volunteered for regular military service, serving in Military Intelligence in Egypt. Bill met Anne when they were both working in code-breaking — in making his first approach to her, apparently Bill bounded down flight after flight of stairs to intercept Anne at the door when she left work one day.

After a short spell teaching in England, Bill took up a post teaching Classics at Portora in 1951, and he and Anne were to spend the rest of their lives in Enniskillen.

Neither of them was short of physical courage; Bill spent three different periods of his life as a volunteer soldier, under two different governments: while a student in Dublin in 1940 as part of the Irish home guard when a German invasion threatened, again in Egypt in the latter years of the Second World War, and finally wangling his way as an overaged Private into the UDR in the early years of the troubles. One story of a Liberal Party campaign in Fermanagh in the 1960s recounts Anne remaining in the car while Bill canvassed, in order to prevent it being physically overturned by a gang of Loyalists.

Bill and Anne joined the Alliance Party almost immediately on its formation, and were stalwarts of the party in Fermanagh for almost 40 years, most recently when they allowed their house to be the office for the Enniskillen by-election in 2009. Bill regularly took a respectable vote in council elections in Enniskillen, but never quite enough to take a seat in Fermanagh’s deeply polarised political environment. Bill also regularly acted as election agent for Alliance candidates in Westminster elections in Fermanagh & South Tyrone, most notable (that physical courage again) for Seamus Close in the by-election after Bobby Sands’ death in 1981.

Bill and Anne were deeply involved in community life in Fermanagh. Anne spent many years as a marriage guidance counsellor and a prison visitor. Bill was involved in the Royal British Legion and the integrated education movement. Both gave long years of service to the Citizens Advice Bureau.

The presence at their memorial service of both Fermanagh’s Sinn Fein MP and DUP Investment Minister showed the degree to which the Barbours were held in high regard across the community. Many lives were touched by Anne and Bill Barbour, and many will miss their human qualities — Anne’s honesty and kindness, Bill’s wonderfully laid back sense of humour and sense of proportion.

Unsung heroes: David Young
Ian Williamson (Alliance News)
September-October 2009

Those of you who have been in touch with the Alliance office at Parliament Buildings will no doubt have been greeted by the cheery tones of David Young, our Press and Policy Assistant. David combines an encyclopaedic knowledge of parliamentary procedure with an encyclopaedic knowledge of cinema! Alliance News caught up with him at Stormont.

Tell us about your background?
I am orginally from Portstewart where I went to Coleraine Inst., but I have been living in student digs in Belfast for the past five years. I went to Queens, where I studied history and politics for three years. Then four days after my graduation ceremony, David Ford rang me up to say that I got this job.

You did work experience with Alliance before you started working for the party. Tell us what made you get involved with the party?
I have always supported Alliance, but it is really two family connections that got me involved in the party. Stephen Farry married my aunt a couple of years ago, so you could say I am continuing the family business. He was the General Secretary for the party during the last Assembly election, so I just asked if he needed any help at headquarters, which he gladly said yes to. The other reason why I got involved in the party is that David Ford and his wife are old friends of my parents, so I have known him most of my life.

What type of work does your daily job entail?
I do pretty much everything and anything under the sun up at Stormont. My main press work entails me writing press releases, organising interviews for the media and arranging photo calls. I also do Stormont related policy work, such as research for MLAs for Assembly debates. I am also in charge of drafting questions to Ministers, as well as looking after Assembly plenary business, such as amendments to motions and legislation.

What has been the most stand out experience of your time working for Alliance?
It was probably last May, when the Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai visited Belfast to attend a Liberal International conference. We were only told the day before the conference that he was coming, so Ian Williamson and myself spent several frantic hours trying to get as many journalists as possible to attend. I heard him speak of the unrest that was happening in his country, which I had only previously seen on the news, so to hear it first hand was something else. I got to shake his hand, which I was very proud to do, and I have massive respect for him as someone who worked to bring peace to their country while their life was under threat.

Do you have any ambitions to become an elected representative?
At the minute I would have to say that I probably would not want to become a politician, but I am only 23 years old, so maybe in 10 or 15 years I might have a go.

I know you are into films — what are your top ten all-time favourites?

  1. The Dark Knight
  2. The Departed
  3. Batman Begins
  4. Capote
  5. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
  6. Blades of Glory
  7. The Matrix
  8. Once Upon a Time in America
  9. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
  10. Nochnoy Dozor

What are your other hobbies?
I enjoy running with my housemates. I have to keep fit if I want to be able to chase after MLAs in Stormont! I also play rugby and cricket with my friends. And nothing beats a good book. As well as watching films, I do a lot of computer gaming on the X-Box 360 and Playstation.