Carrickfergus town centre was at a standstill on Friday afternoon as the community turned out to say a final farewell to the Mayor, Alderman Charles Johnston.
Residents lined the route as the first citizen’s funeral cortege made its way from Carrickfergus Methodist Church along High Street to the Town Hall where he was a councillor for over 30 years.
Mr Johnston (64), who died on Tuesday after a courageous battle with cancer, was a very well-known figure in the borough and this was reflected in the diverse range of organisations who joined Mayoress, Patricia Johnston, Mr Johnston’s son Samuel, daughter Charlene and wider family circle and friends at the church.
First Minister and DUP leader Peter Robinson and Lord Lieutenant for County Antrim Joan Christie OBE attended the service of thanksgiving for Mr Johnston’s life, which was led by minister Rev David Clements.
Rev Clements spoke of Charlie’s love of his family and passion for and commitment to Carrickfergus Borough Council, serving four terms as first citizen and indeed as the “last Mayor of Carrickfergus” before the post disappears under the new super council structure.
With the church and adjoining hall at capacity, there were readings from close friend David Hilditch MLA and Darren McAllister, from Woodburn Ebenezer LOL 787 and a moving tribute by Samuel Johnston, which encapsulated everything his father held dear.
There was a warm tribute too from Rev Aian Ferguson, previous minister at Carrickfergus Methodist and former president of the church.
Town Hall colleagues donned robes of office and formed a guard of honour, while staff from the local government authority paid their respects as a number of public buildings closed. Mr Johnston’s coffin was draped with the borough flag, which was presented to the Mayoress as the service concluded.
The Orange Order was prominent in proceedings in honour of Mr Johnston’s long association with the organisation from Junior Orange to, latterly, membership of Woodburn LOL 787. The lodge’s banner was placed on the coffin which was borne by fellow brethren along the route.
In attendance too were officials, players and supporters from Carrick Rangers FC, where Mr Johnston was club secretary. Further poignancy was added as the procession made its way to Taylor’s Avenue, home of the football club and finally to Victoria Cemetery, where the freeman of the borough was laid to rest.