Former borough architect and head of building control

Ian Whittle.
Ian Whittle.

Architect and building control chief Ian Whittle spent his entire career in the public sector – with Belfast, Craigavon and Armagh councils. After he retired 18 years ago, his expertise was sought after by private companies.

Ian (83) died on Thursday, March 9, less than four weeks short of what would have been his and wife Joan’s Golden Wedding Anniversary.

He passed away in hospital after a long illness, surrounded by wife Joan and his loving family.

As well as Joan (nee Millar) he is survived by daughters Suzanna Robinson (son-in-law Rodney), Ruth Nielsen (son-in-law Soren) and grandchildren Katie, Harry, Lily and Maisy. He was the son of the late John and Edith Whittle and was pre-deceased by his younger brother Gordon.

Ian Whittle was born and brought up in the Edgarstown area of Portadown. He was educated at the Hart Memorial Primary School and at Portadown ‘Tech’. His ambition was to become an architect and he studied at the College of Art in Belfast. He completed his ‘articles’, as was the tradition in those days, with well-known Portadown architect Cecil Callaghan, whose office was at Church Street.

Ian’s first post was with Belfast City Council, and his first main contract was in the design of the Grove Swimming Pool at the Shore Road. The success of the project was his ‘ticket’ back to home-town Portadown, where the pool at Thomas Street was in the borough council’s plans.

He worked with Portadown Borough Council Architect Douglas Smith as Assistant Borough Architect. His in-put into the pool project – now Cascades – was immense. The official opening was on May 31, 1969, by Lord Grey, the last Governor of Northern Ireland. The Mayor and councillors turned out that day, youth organisation lined Thomas Street in anticipation of the new facility, and Ian was part of the official party.

Four years later came the re-organisation of local government and Ian landed the position of Chief Building Control Officer with Armagh District Council – he remained in the post until 1998 when he retired. But such was his expertise and respect within the profession that he was employed ad hoc by solicitors, contractors and architects - to prepare plans and drawings – up to within weeks of his death.

Outside his work, Ian’s main outlet was his church at First Presbyterian, Portadown (Edenderry). He went through the Sunday School, Bible Class and Scouts, where the Scout Master was the dedicated Jackie Connell.

Ian and Joan were both devoted members at Edenderry. Their wedding was conducted by their minister, Rev William Craig, later Dr William Craig and Presbyterian Moderator, who died recently. The wedding date was April 4, 1967. Their home is at Killicomain Drive.

Ian was a member of the church committee, the finance committee and the property committee, where his professional experience was invaluable. He also headed the Freewill Offering counting team.

He particularly enjoyed sport, playing football in his earlier days in the various local leagues (summer, works and community). He played pool and billiards at Carleton Street Orange Hall, and snooker at the Methodist Institute, the HQ of First Portadown BB Old Boys. He also enjoyed squash and the occasional round of golf, with the council-owned Silverwood his favourite course.

The service of thanksgiving was at First Portadown on Saturday, and was conducted by Rev Peter Gamble of The Mall, Armagh. The family tribute was by daughter Suzanne Robinson, with Bible readings by daughter Ruth Nielsen and granddaughter Katie Jess, whose husband Nathan sang the solo. Hymns were ‘The Lord’s My Shepherd’ and ‘Abide With Me. Burial was at Vinecash Presbyterian Churchyard.

Donations in lieu of flowers are to Cancer Research and to the First Portadown Building Fund c/o Joseph Poots and Son, Funeral Directors, 42 Bridge Street, Portadown BT63 5AE.