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Tributes as former St Mark’s Armagh rector Canon John McKegney loses cancer battle

John McKegney Armagh

Tributes have been paid to the former rector of St Mark’s Parish Church in Armagh, John McKegney, who has died.

Canon McKegney passed away today after a brave battle with cancer.

He had been the rector of the Mall-based Church of Ireland congregation for many years until he retired, moving to Portrush on the North Coast.

Canon McKegney was a great friend as well as clergyman to many; he became part of the very fabric of Armagh and his association with St Mark’s Church began back in the 1980s.

Upon his retirement in the 2010s, he may have left Armagh physically but it was never far from his mind.

Indeed, he kept an active interest in the city and district and would often interact with Armagh I readers online in relation to stories which we would publish.

He had a great interest in heritage and local railways and enjoyed a very active retirement.

Again, he had a vast knowledge of the Armagh Railway Disaster and had even delivered talks on the subject.

There have been many tributes paid today since news of Mr McKegney’s passing.

He was a former president of the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland.

One friend, David Walsh, posting in Irish Railways Present and Past and other Interesting Railways, wrote: “John was many things to many people. To many of us he was very much committed both to the betterment of current public transport and celebrating its past, including that of his former employer, Londonderry and Lough Swilly Railway, where he worked as a bus conductor.

“He was a committed and respected clergyman in the Church of Ireland, with whom he served faithfully in many parishes in Northern Ireland and as a Synodsman.

“He was also a community man, who was approachable and a firm friend to many, and never afraid to help, support and say his bit.

“Lastly, he was a friend to many and forever spoke with a smile on his face.

“To Patrick, Ruth and Karen, and to his many colleagues and friends, we send our thoughts and prayers at this time.”

Downpatrick and County Down Railways described him as “a true friend of railways and railway preservation across Ireland“.

In a social media post, the organisation stated: “John latterly served as the chairman of the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland, leading the organisation through some very difficult times during the pandemic.

“Prior to this he had volunteered in various capacities, from making use of his own trademark white beard in a special December role to being the most professional guest presenter in the Belfast winter meetings, due to his infectious enthusiasm and his lifetime of practice at public speaking and keeping people awake from the pulpit!

“John was especially knowledgeable about the Armagh Disaster and appeared many times on television talking about it down the years. He was also not averse to diesel trains, even being spotted at a Downpatrick diesel gala on at least one occasion, and was very fond of the 80 class, and delighted that we managed to preserve two of them.

“Generous with his time, his spirit, and in sharing his collection of photographs from the old days of railways and his native Derry, John was widely respected across all heritage railway organisations in Ireland and beyond. He will be sadly missed by everyone, he was one of life’s true gentlemen.”

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