TRIBUTES have been paid to a Lisburn man who tragically drowned last weekend whilst leading a group, including his 14-year-old son, on a canoe trip.
48-year-old Stephen Chapman, a former pupil of Friends' School, and the son of well-known local man Arthur Chapman, the former principal of Friends', died when he fell from his canoe at Carnroe Lock, near Coleraine at around 2pm on Sunday .
Mr Chapman, who was head of administration in the Faculty of Life and Health Sciences at the University of Ulster's Coleraine campus, was a senior member of the Causeway Coast Kayak Association and a very experienced canoeist.
He was leading the group, including his son Duncan, when he got into difficulties after passing through the weir on the River Bann. He fell from his boat and was trapped in the water at Carnroe Lock. He died despite frantic efforts by emergency workers and a doctor in the canoe team.
A service of committal took place for Mr Chapman on Wednesday morning at Moyallon Friends Meeting House, followed by a service of thanksgiving at Hazelbank Presbyterian Church in Coleraine.
The Chapman family has a long association with Friends' where Arthur Chapman, himself an Old Scholar, was Headmaster from 1970 to 1989. All four children, Stephen, Grace, Elizabeth and Hilda, attended the school.
Stephen, whose wife Lesley is also a former pupil of Friends', is also survived by his 17year-old daughter Orla.
Martin Mail from the Lisburn Society of Friends described Stephen as a "quiet and gentle person" who "introduced many young people to adventurous pursuits."
Mr Mail said: "Stephen's mother, Dr Alice Chapman, was a great inspiration to him, and was perhaps the key to his life of service to others. Sadly she died when he was only 17, but together with his younger sisters, Grace, Elizabeth and Hilda, they supported their father and each other through that difficuite time.
"Integrity and service epitomise Stephen's life and employment. In his teens he was active in Christian youth work, especially in the Lisburn Crusaders, and the annual Quaker Youth Camp held at Moyallon. This keen interest in giving direction and confidence to young people was a mission that he carried on into later life, for even though he was by nature a quiet and gentle person, he introduced many young people to adventurous pursuits. In his role as head of the faculty of administration at the University of Ulster he was loved and respected.
"Stephen was a 'full time' Christian; he valued his upbringing in the Society of Friends, and also the fellowship he enjoyed in recent years at Hazelbank Presbyterian Church in Coleraine."
Mr Mail added: "However, the true treasure in his life was knowing Jesus, whose love he reflected to family, friends and indeed everyone he met. His life remains an inspiration, but his absence will be hard to bear, especially for his wife Leslie, and children, Orla and Duncan."
Close friend of the family, the Rev Alan Johnston of Hazelbank Presbyterian, said the family was still coming to terms with what had happened.
Rev Johnston said: "They (Stephen and Lesley) were a couple with a strong Christian faith and that is holding Lesley and her family together.
"They were very committed to the church and people of the highest integrity I have ever met. If they agreed to do anything, they did it 100 per cent.'
Rev Johnston said he counted Mr Chapman as "a friend".
"I knew him very well as a member of the congregation, and would like to think he saw me as a friend. I saw him as one."
Sean McGarry, regional commander of the Community Rescue Team, said Mr Chapman was a senior member of the Causeway Coast Kayak Association and described him as a very experienced canoeist.
"It was a very professional team. He was the leader of the group of five people. When they came to the weir, they had stopped for lunch," he said.
"He waited for the others to pass through. Then he was thrown out of the canoe and became caught in the undertow of the weir. He didn't surface for some time."
Local farmers helped the emergency workers to get through the water near Kilrea to help Mr Chapman. A doctor tried for 35 minutes to resuscitate him on the river bank.
Mr McCarry said the group were often on the river and were always very well behaved and well trained. He said it was "an awful tragedy".