A memorial service for a Presbyterian Minister who died in a diving accident off the Donegal coast has taken place in Donemana.
Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Ireland Dr Michael Barry joined local ministers and colleagues of the late Rev Dr Stewart Jones at the service of thanksgiving on Wednesday.
The service was held at Donemana Presbyterian Church, where Rev Jones was based, and was led by the Moderator of the Derry and Donegal Presbytery, Rev John Hanna.
Rev Jones (56), who was also Chaplain at Altnagelvin Hospital, was diving at St John’s Point in south Donegal when the accident happened at around 4.25pm on Saturday.
Emergency crews were scrambled after a passer-by spotted him and another diver in difficulties.
The father-of-three was taken by helicopter to Sligo Hospital and given CPR on route, but was pronounced dead.
Speaking during the Thanksgiving service on Wednesday in Donemana Presbyterian Church, Rev Robert Buick, Clerk of the Derry & Donegal Presbytery, said the reasons for his death may never be known.
Rev Buick said his friend had taken up diving some 15 years ago, and had “embraced this hobby with enthusiasm and vigour, encouraging his children to take up the sport”.
He added: “A PADI and BSAC qualified instructor since 2011, Stewart was meticulous in his preparations before a dive and in the training of his students, there was never anything left to chance nor any corners cut.
“Hence it was with confidence that I trusted not only my own life into Stewart’s hands but also that of my two children, Aaron and Alison. “He taught us all how to dive in recent years and continued our training in the sport he loved. The many tributes left by his diving friends and students on social media sites since Saturday bear testimony to the impact his life has had on those he regularly dived with.
“Why the events of Saturday 12th July at St John’s Point in Donegal, on a fun dive, at a dive site he knew well, resulted in Stewart’s tragic death, we may never fully understand.
“The assistance offered that day to Stewart by passersby, the local coastguard, and members of the Irish helicopter rescue team and the consideration and compassion shown in the following hours by the staff of Sligo General Hospital, the Guards and especially by Rev. Alan Mitchell, Presbyterian Chaplain at Sligo Hospital, are all very much appreciated by Patricia and the family.”
Rebv Buick described Rev Jones as “a big guy, not just physically, but mentally and spiritually”, who had a fascination with machinery and a long record of prowess in academia.
Those attending were told that Rev Jones had been “deeply affected as a teenager by the Kingsmill Massacre and the sight of so many coffins lined across Bessbrook Presbyterian Church”.
It was also outlined how he had been Clerk of Foyle Presbytery from 2005 to 2009 and Presbyterian Chaplain at Altnagelvin Hospital from 2010.
Rev Buick said: “Stewart was deeply committed to the need for society here to move forward and another pivotal time was his year as Moderator of Presbytery when he became deeply involved with the Churches Together project working with Bishop Ken Good (Church of Ireland), Monsignor Eamon Martin (Roman Catholic Church) and Rev Peter Murray (Methodist), particularly in the distribution of copies of Luke’s Book to every home within the city for the UK City Of Culture year,” the congregation was told by Rev Buick, who added:
“During that year, Stewart and I had the honour of representing Presbytery at the installation service in St. Patrick’s cathedral, Armagh of Eamon Martin coadjutor Archbishop.
“Stewart also loved working with the other
chaplains in Altnagelvin Hospital, who became valued friends as they met while visiting and shared in various services together.
“He was committed to the Irish Churches Peace Project in Strabane in recent months. I have personally received many calls and messages from ministers of many denominations, with whom he had come into contact, to express their sorrow at Stewart’s passing.”
Dr Jones is survived by his wife Patricia, daughters Esther, Rachel and Anna, son-in-laws Liam and David and grandchildren Lily and Joshua.