Portadown jeweller Jack Eakin (97) proud of being Ireland’s longest serving Rotarian

Jack Eakin was born on 18th September 1923 to parents John and Doris.

Thursday, 29th July 2021, 11:49 am
Portadown jeweller Jack Eakin in his shop. Mr Eakin died recently aged 97.

He was the first baby delivered at the Carlton Home in Church St. Jack was baptised at Holy Trinity Church in Portrush, where his grandparents lived.

He spent his childhood living in Thomas Street and Elmview Terrace in West Street where he was soon joined by his younger brothers Fred and Kenneth.

He attended the Academy Primary School and was friendly with Davy Cochrane, the famous Leeds United international footballer. One story Jack often told was about how amazed he was to be able to play against Cochrane in rough summer football matches played on equally rough waste ground near Jervis St. No professional player would risk that nowadays!

Portadown jeweller Jack Eakin has died aged 97.

Another thing not risked today is children being allowed to venture away from home alone. But Jack’s parents amazingly allowed him, at the age of just ten, to travel alone to Nottingham by boat and train to watch the legendary Harold Larwood play cricket.

Jack attended Portadown Tech where he was a keen member of the Air Training Corps. He remembers being ‘lifted’ by the police during an ATC training exercise when he was sending morse code messages by flashlight from the top of the tower at St Mark’s Church. He was released without charge and eventually joined the RAF in November 1942.

He trained as a navigator in Canada and then served at various air bases around England.

Even in his nineties, Jack could still expertly read morse code. Until Jack became ill, he was able to enjoy making telephone calls to his great wartime friend Jim Browning from England.

Portadown jewller Jack Eakin as a young man. A wartime letter sent by Mr Eakin from Canada to his mum was discovered by his son on Ebay.

Last year, a wartime letter that Jack sent home from Canada to his mother - and was never delivered - was discovered by his son Harry on eBay. Jack greatly enjoyed reading this but could never understand how it came to be offered for sale by a dealer in America.

After the war, he took over his father’s jewellery business at 6 High St and they lived over the shop for many years. In 1946, he married Betty Gosnell at Thomas St Methodist Church. They ran the business for nearly 50 years and did so on traditional lines - the shop was never modernised and Betty and Jack knew most of the customers by name. Jack had the contract for looking after St Mark’s Church clock and, in addition to winding it up, he had to call out in the middle of the night twice each year to adjust the hours for winter/summer time.

In the early 1950s, they moved to Kingsway Drive (where Jack made lifelong friendships with Evan Wright and Jim Cullen), then to Carrickblacker Rd and finally Long Lane where he was very friendly with his neighbours John and Anne Stevenson and William and Sandra Hughes. Jack never lived anywhere else but Portadown and he had many close friends from the town, including Charlie McGaffin, Bertie Martin, Ernest Lawson, Jim Smart and Canon Thomas McGonigle.

Betty and Jack faithfully attended St Mark’s Church every Sunday for many years and he served on the select vestry for a time.

After retirement, Jack and Betty travelled widely and enjoyed spending time with their three sons: Terry, Harry and Brian - their wives Pam and Mary - and their six grandchildren: Caroline, Claire, Suzanne, Alison, Peter and John - and great grandchildren Josh, Caleb, Ben, Isla, Guy, Adam, Lucas and Aston.

After Betty died in 2011, Jack lived alone. His travelling by then was largely limited to afternoons out in Scarva, where he found great enjoyment visiting Scarva Auctions and drinking coffee (never ever tea) usually beside the open fire at Sintons with his close friends Maureen Jones and Cardwell McClure.

He also greatly looked forward to his phone calls at 10:00am sharp each Saturday to his sister-in-law Amy in Bangor. They had a seemingly never-ending list of jokes which they exchanged every week.

Jack was lucky to have lived a busy, active life - he greatly enjoyed Portadown Rotary Club and his Masonic Lodge in Thomas Street. Jack was very proud to be the longest serving Rotarian in Ireland and was awarded the Paul Harris award for his services to Rotary. He was a keen follower of Portadown Football Club and also loved listening to Ulster rugby and England cricket matches on the radio.

Those who knew Jack will remember him as a man who never let things get him down. A man who loved telling stories, never got angry and never had a bad word to say against anybody. He was a kind, honest, true gentleman and highly regarded by everyone who knew him.

The funeral was conducted by the Reverend William Orr on Sunday 25th July. A large number of mourners attended including Doug Beattie MLA, members of the Portadown Rotary Club and the Masonic Order.

Jack’s health only declined in the final year of his life and his family would like to express their heartfelt thanks to all the staff of Craigavon Area Hospital and Sandringham Care Home who cared for Jack during his last days.

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