Winston a ’practical Christian’

Winston Clayton.
Winston Clayton.

One of Tandragee’s most popular residents, Winston Clayton, has died after a short illness. He was 75 and led a varied life, centred on family, work, church and sport.

He was christened ‘William Thomas’ which is confirmed by the records of his beloved church St Mark’s Ballymore, and how it changed to ‘Winston’ is lost in the mists of time. There is a theory that his family were great admirers of Winston Churchill.

He was one of the family of nine of William David and Eveline Clayton, of whom five still survive. Winston was born in March 1941, and the family home was at The Square Tandragee. He spent most of his life in the town – except for two years in Vancouver, Canada, which turned out to be the most significant in his life.

He went out to an uncle and aunt to work as a surveyor’s assistant in the local university. Before that, he had worked on a building site in Markethill and at Wade Pottery in Portadown. And it was in Vancouver that he met his future wife – not a Canadian, but a young lady from Richhill, the former Anne Allen who had also gone west to stay with an uncle and aunt.

They fell in love, and on their return were married in Armagh Methodist Church in 1964, with Anne’s ‘home’ church in Richhill being renovated at the time. Rev Canon Shane Forster, Rector of Ballymore, summed it up at the funeral service when he said, “So a young fellow from Tandragee had to go all the way to Canada to meet the love of his life and yet she was from only seven or so miles down the road!”

The Claytons didn’t things by halves! When Anne was in hospital having their first baby, Winston called to see if it was a boy or a girl. It turned out to be both, with twins Jennifer and Mark lying contentedly in their cots! Later on, son Alan was added to the family, and they set up home at The Mount, Tandragee.

The arrival of grandchildren brought a whole new dimension to Winston’s and Anne’s lives. Sarah, Laura, Jordan, Ben, Kayleigh-Ann and Caycie brought them so much joy.

By then, he had returned to Wade’s, after which he joined the NI Prison Service when he spent the remaining 23 years of his working life.

Winston was a keen footballer. He was signed as a highly promising player by the then Linfield player coach Jackie Milburn and, over several seasons, played mostly for Linfield Swifts as an inside-forward. He was with Bessbrook in 1955/56 and for Portadown and Tandragee Rovers.

He also stints with Glenavon, Loughgall, Armagh Blues, and St Andrews Vancouver. And it was ironic that, while a pupil at Portadown Tech, he was a schoolboy international, along with the McConville Brothers, Winston and Billy, who sadly drowned while on a fishing trip to the Republic many years ago.

Winston Clayton was a practical Christian as was underlined by Canon Forster at the funeral service - “He always showed genuine concern for those around him who were unwell, or were facing difficulties in life.”

He was also a faithful member of the Orange Order, LOL 32, and of Royal Black Preceptory 314. “That sense of community and belonging was important to him,” said the rector.

He recalled Winston’s love for Ballymore, which started at an early age as a member of the BB. And he stated that Winston and Anne enjoyed their holidays together – three times away during the past year, with Vancouver and Morocco their favourite destinations during their lives.

Canon Forster also recalled that during his lifetime Winston had four heart attacks and a mini stroke along with hip replacements “but none of those things held him back in life.”

He showed the same fortitude with his final illness, even though his decline was rapid. Canon Forster said, “The family were by family were by his bedside at Newry Hospice and they told him how much they loved him. He died so very peacefully.”

Ballymore Curate Rev Graham Spence conducted the service with Canon Forster delivering the eulogy. Burial was in Ballymore Church.