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Well-known storyteller laid to rest at Lambeg

ONE of Northern Ireland's best known broadcasters and news-paper columnists was laid to rest in Lambeg Parish Churchyard on Tuesday.

Tom McDevitte, who lived in Finaghy for 60 years, passed away at the Mount Lens Nursing Home in East Belfast after a period of illness. He was 94.

Mr. McDevitte was a popular story-teller, especially as his alter ego the legendary Barney McCool.

This aged rural character, who owned a donkey and cart, told stories of life in the townland of Coolaghey, near his native Strabane.

He created the character for Radio Eireann in 1936 and broadcast on radio for many years before making his debut on UTV's launch programme in 1959.

Many of his ideas and experiences came from his time as an employee of the railways, which began when he was 15 as a clerk with the Great Northern in Strabane.

He was a popular entertainer at hundreds of concerts and church halls and for 45 years contributed a weekly newspaper column entitled 'What Now' for the Tyrone Constitution in Omagh.

He penned his final column for this publication in May of this year.

At the age of 86 he revived his regular contributions to the Dundalk Democrat newspaper as 'Roamer' - a column he first started during his time as a clerk in the local Great Northern Railway engineering works during the Second World War.

He originally chose the title 'Roamer' because many of the early articles were inspired by sights he saw and people he met on numerous cycling trips around Ireland.

Mr. McDevitte was also a regular contributor to Walter Love's BBC Radio Ulster programmes Day by Day and Love Forty.

His last broadcast was on his 94th birthday in November.

In 2000 he received the MBE from the Queen at Buckingham Palace for services to journalism and the community.

He had many interests and was an active member of the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland and the Percy French Society.

He was also a founder member of the now defunct Tyrone Society.

Mr. McDevitte spent more than 40 years with the Great Northern Railway moving on to the Ulster Transport Authority.

He then joined McCalla Travel in Belfast and eventually moved to Europa Travel in Dunmurry.

His wife Gladys passed away 15 years ago but he is survived by his children Douglas, Kenneth, Maurice, Carolyn and Barry, seven grandchildren and eight great grandchildren.

Prior to the burial at Lambeg, a service of thanksgiving for Mr. McDevitte's life was held at Finaghy Methodist Church.