Former Mayor from a working class family

Three generations of the Lutton Family (from left) Keith, Bobby and Sammy. Ready for the Twelfth parade through Lurgan. Picture by Jeremy Marks 12/07/2011.
Three generations of the Lutton Family (from left) Keith, Bobby and Sammy. Ready for the Twelfth parade through Lurgan. Picture by Jeremy Marks 12/07/2011.

Sam Lutton was a member of three loyal orders, and rose to become First Citizen of the borough which he had made his home.

Born on January 18, 1924 in south Belfast to father Samuel and mother Martha, his was “an ordinary working-class family”, said son Bobby.

He had left school to take up a job as a sheet metal worker at the shipyard, aged only around 15 or 16.

During the war, the threat of Nazi bombs forced them to flee as evacuees to Lurgan, from where he continued to commute in to work each day.

After his stint at the shipyard he moved to the RAF base at Aldergrove to work.

“From what I remember he was always involved in the UUP,” said Bobby.

“I remember him being involved, and I’m 65.”

He first stood as a councillor around the late 1960s or early 1970s, and his son said he had essentially been the founder of the south Lurgan branch of the party.

He went on to be selected to become mayor of his adopted borough of Craigavon in 1996/7.

In addition, he had served in the UDR during the early to mid-1980s and later in that decade became an RUC reservist – eventually ending up working as a caretaker of Lurgan’s police station.

He was also a member of the Orange Order’s Lurgan Purple Star LOL 63, as well as the Apprentice Boys and the Royal Black Institution.

“He was very much a traditionalist, with very strong support for the union with Great Britain,” Bobby said.

“He was sort of a moderate [when it came to the peace process], in that I think he realised there had to be a bit of give-and-take somewhere along the line, but he certainly was by no means prepared to water down the links with Britain.”

In retirement from both work and politics, he was a keen gardener and Glenavon fan.

In his later years he had two hip replacements and a knee replacement; Bobby joked: “He was like a sort of bionic man.”

He died in his sleep of a major stroke on the morning of Good Friday at his bungalow in Lurgan. He was 91.

His funeral was held at Queen Street Methodist Church on Easter Sunday,

He had been a faithful attender at the church and his funeral was very well attended, with Lord and Lady Trimble among those present.

Lord Trimble told the News Letter: “Sam had a full life; a long life and a full one. I knew about his political involvement, but what came across during the funeral service was how many other things he’d been involved in as well.

“He was a person who made a significant mark on the local community. There were so many homes we visited together of people who had been bereaved; and did that on both ‘sides of the street’.

“Sam was just Sam. He was steady. He was firm. He was himself.”

He was buried in Lurgan Cemetery.

Mr Lutton is survived by sister Elizabeth, son Bobby, daughters Lynn and Jean, three grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

His wife Sadie predeceased him in 1988.