Dr Norman McNutt, a kind-hearted GP who had a practice in High Street, passed away last week at the age of 90.
Norman was born in Downings, County Donegal on January 5, 1923, the youngest of seven brothers and sisters.
The McNutts were a family with, unusually, two sets of twins. Norman and his twin brother George, who sadly passed away two days before him, were known as the ‘Earthly Twins’.
Norman was laid to rest on Sunday following a service in Shankill Parish. George, who remained in Downings all his life, was buried on Thursday at Carrigart.
They are survived by their older sister Mary. Her twin brother Joe sadly passed away many years ago. Mary and Joe were known as the ‘Heavenly Twins’.
Norman’s father had a groceries and general merchant store and supplied the herring boats and the surrounding countryside. Norman would tell stories of the days spent during his summer holidays when he was out in the van on deliveries. Items were sometimes paid for in cash and sometimes with eggs, chickens or other exchangeable commodities.
Norman’s mother was an enterprising lady. She was from Rosehearty outside Aberdeen. As well as rearing seven children, she kept an eye on proceedings in the store, was the local photographer with her own dark room set up and once her sons Jim and Bill started a tweed weaving company to create employment for the local population, she started a shop to sell some of the tweed plus luxury fashion clothing to cater for the many tourists to the area.
Norman attended Kinalargy Primary School with George and then both boys went on to board at Grammar School Sligo. On completing their studies George chose a career in retail in the family business and Norman went on to Trinity College Dublin to study medicine. He made many lifelong friends at Trinity, Pop Williamson and Stanley Crone to name but two.
They roomed first in Trinity and then in digs in Harcourt Terrace. The family probably got the edited version of student life in Dublin, but it’s believed a good time was had by all. Norman played rugby for Trinity for a time but an altercation with a larger and bulkier opponent put an end to any dreams of a green jersey. He also played badminton and tennis and ‘make the rules up as you go along’ croquet. However his real love was golf and thus his life long quest for ‘The Secret’ began. His older brother, Joe, also studied medicine at Trinity and the two of them were known to play golf in all weathers. Before brightly coloured golf balls were commercially available, the story goes that the two boys would paint their golf balls bright red so that they could find them in the snow.
Once qualified, Norman worked at the Adelaide in Dublin and then in Ards Hospital. It was in Ards that a life changing event happened to him. He met Anne. She had been carrying out her Red Cross duties and was descending the stairs, he was ascending, they met in the middle and the rest is, as they say, history. In June they had been together 58 years.
Norman then worked as a locum at the GP practice in 60 High Street and then got a junior partner job at a GP practice in Sutton, Surrey, England. Norman and Anne married in 1955 and moved to England. Their daughter Pamela was born there. Then, three years later, they returned to Northern Ireland as Norman had been offered a job in the practice in 60 High Street, Lurgan with Dr Bob Pedlow and Dr Frank Henderson. Soon after their return to Lurgan their son Ian was born. Time moved on and Frank Henderson and Norman became the senior partners and good friends. When Frank became ill, Norman visited him every Tuesday until Frank passed away. This was one of the many acts of kindness which was much appreciated by those who knew him. Norman really loved his work. His wife Anne tells that there were many occasions when after a day’s work, he’d be sitting at home in the evening and then say that he thought he’d just look in again on a patient he’d already been in visiting that morning. It was very heartening for the family to have so many good wishes from ex patients who appreciated his kindness, generosity of spirit and time and his good humour.
Throughout his life he continued to play golf. The children have memories of himself and Dr Brian Johnston going off to England for a week’s GP refresher course with the bag of golf clubs over their shoulders. Anne could never satisfactorily explain to the children the link between medicine and golf! There was a four ball of mature golfers who regularly played together and put the world to rights; Brian Johnston, Eric Murray, Harry Bruce and Norman McNutt. In recent years Harry and Norman continued to perfect their swings and off the course had many good discussions about life and anything new in the medical world.
Norman was a great family man. There are a wealth of memories of summer holidays spent in Downings with freedom for the children to roam the beaches and coves. Picnics, fishing, walking, climbing Gania (a small hill behind Downings which could feel like a mountain to short legs) and of course golf. The children were recruited as caddies and searchers of lost golf balls amongst the sand dunes and rabbit holes of the Rosapenna golf course. Norman very much enjoyed his last golf outing at Easter in Donegal with his son Ian and grandsons Scott and Robert. There was much discussion about techniques, weight transfer and swing plane and of course the eternal quest for ‘The Secret’.
In recent years, Norman, Anne, their children and families, grandchildren and spouses have been going to Carrigart for Easter. Norman really enjoyed these times with his family around him. His grandchildren, Scott, Robert and Suzanne will probably know more variations on the game of gin rummy than most and be familiar with the more obscure two and three letter words in Scrabble.
There are other fond family memories of holidays in France, caravanning. One is of Norman explaining about the car’s faulty fuel pipe in his best Grammar School Sligo French. It was concluded that the French garage man must have spoken a different dialect to that taught in Sligo.
Norman was a strong and encouraging supporter of Anne in her many activities and projects. For example her lifelong and continuous interest in Guiding and her tireless campaigning and fundraising for the Jethro Centre.
At home Anne was the gardener. Norman dealt with the grass. His grandson Scott has fond memories of Grandpa Norman’s gardening. He liked everything to be clean and in good working order, which meant taking many pieces of garden equipment apart – to ensure a thorough clean. He was so thorough he would even have parts left over when it was put back together... much to the delight of McKerr’s lawnmower repairs.
Norman had a strong faith and gave encouragement and comfort to many. He also tended to look on the bright side of life. Even when, after his fall out of the roof space, he was in the RVH high dependency unit with a fully supportive neck collar, oxygen mask, and various tubes, drains and drips, his reply to a nephew’s question, ‘How’s it going?’, was ‘Can’t complain.’ On awaking in the same unit and unsure of where he was he asked the figure beside him, ‘Am I in Heaven?’ and ‘Are you Jesus?’ When told that he was in the RVH and that he was being attended to by a nurse the next question was ‘Do you play golf at all yourself?’
Norman had a long and happy and fulfilled life. He had enjoyed his work and delighted in his family. He will be so very much missed by his family who know they have been privileged to have known him and benefitted from his loving, caring and generous spirit.