Terry Lockhart’s life was proof that even out of the darkest of days can emerge the most positive of outcomes.
Richhill man Terry (74) has died in the southernmost island of Mandanao in the Philippines, where he set up an orphanage 25 years ago to accommodate 24 ‘street children’, abandoned in the towns and cities of the Pacific archipelago.
It was, he often said, “God moving in a mysterious way” to help compensate for the shattering death of his wife Christine in the heinous IRA firebomb attack on the La Mon Hotel on February 17, 1978.
Christine, a member of the Collie Club, was at their annual dinner, while Terry (a country and western singer under stage name Terry Nash) was performing at a gig in Dungannon.
She and 11 others perished that night and 30 people were badly injured. Returning home to Richhill, Terry turned on the car radio to learn about the atrocity. They gave a telephone number for families to inquire about relatives.
In his booklet – ‘The Night Terry’s World collapsed and Project Kneel Began’ - he described how the phone number was registered in his mind. When he phoned, he knew that Christine was among the dead.
She’d had a leg amputated a few years earlier due to cancer and was unable to escape, thrusting Terry and her extended family into the depths of despair. The Portadown Times still remembers the day we went out to the Lockhart home to be greeted by Christine’s collies, her parents who had come over from their home in England, and Terry, all the essence of courtesy.
Understandably, Terry had to get away from it all. And where better than the far-off Philippines where his music was ‘big’. He tried to enjoy the money he was making and the so-called ‘good life’ but he couldn’t. His ‘Road to Damascus’ moment was in a dingy street in Manila, the Filipino capital. He thought he had trod on a doll as he walked along a footpath. But it wasn’t a doll – it was a dead child, a young girl, and that pulled Terry Lockhart up short.
So he used his money, his experiences, and revived his Christian faith to set up an orphanage in the south of the islands. A BBC documentary in 2003, called Christine’s Children, charted his story.
Terry’s money was soon spent, but the slack was taken up and it was financed by Project Kneel back home in NI, initially led by Lurgan man Ray McLeod, now deceased, and then by Sammy Abraham of Laurelvale, who is in the vanguard of raising between £1,000 and £1,500 each month to keep the orphanage going.
Terry was a happy and fulfilled man in latter years. He found a new and caring wife in Sheila in the Philippines. They adopted a daughter and called her Christine, now aged 14 – and then had their own biological son in Dylan, now nine.
But as Terry turned 70, his health began to fail. He’d been back home in Portadown and Richhill a number of times, and on his last visit about eight years ago, he told his friends at the Portadown Times, “This will be my final visit.” We kept in touch with him, especially through the storms that damaged the orphanage, and which he always rebuilt.
He was admitted to the intensive care unit of his local hospital and it was there that he died, with Sheila and children Dylan and Christine at his bedside.
Sammy Abraham said that, while Christine had been taken away, God had sent Sheila and she was continuing the work in the Philippines’ orphanage, helped by some of the now sturdy young men to whom Terry and Sheila and their team had given a home.
“The work must continue,” said Sammy. “We appeal to our benefactors here to continue to give, and to others to join them in keeping alive the memories of Christine and Terry Lockhart.”
Enquiries are to 07808-59992, Reg. Charity No. XR72649. Cheques to Project Kneel Ministries, First Trust Bank, Portadown. Acc. no: 23755092. Sort Code: 93-84-08. Or post to Sammy Abraham, 4 Main Street, Laurelvale, BT72 2LN.
As well as his family in the Philippines, Terry is survived by sisters Lee Anderson, Yvonne Heasty (both Portadown) and Val Mayo (Wales) and by brother Roger (Richhill).