THE LAST known war veteran from Northern Ireland to have survived the Battle of Dunkirk, John Mackin, has died at the age of 93.
Just last month, the veteran Irish Guardsman was the special guest at a concert featuring the Band of the Irish Guard held in the Island Hall.
Born in Lisburn, in 1919, he joined the Irish Guards in 1939 and went on to fight in Dunkirk. However, his army career was cut short when he was seriously injured during the retreat.
His injuries were so severe that he was left for dead but miraculously he was rescued by a Royal Engineer Sapper from Dublin who carried him on his back for some distance and led him to safety. John was given first aid and evacuated to a hospital in England with the rest of the BEF (British Expeditionary Force).
John suffered horrific injuries including the loss of an eye and shrapnel embedded in his head.
Nonetheless he lived a very fruitful life, both in employment and in his local church. He married and raised a family and for many years, laid the poppy wreath on Remembrance Sunday at his local church.
A Service of Thanksgiving for his life was held at Hillhall Presbyterian Church on Tuesday conducted by the minister, the Rev Paul Jamieson, assisted by the minister emeritus, Rev Dr Jack Richardson MBE.
Peter McKechnie presided at the organ and led the thanksgiving praise that included, ‘To God be the Glory’, ‘Great Things he has Done’, ‘My hope is Built on Nothing less than Jesus’ Blood and Righteousness’ and ‘I shall know Him by the Print of the Nails in His Hand.’
In a moving tribute, John’s close friend Norman Moore spoke of him as a good man, who was full of the Holy Ghost; a man of prayer and a man of strong faith who believed in his God.
Recalling John’s involvement with Ballymacbrennan Prayer Union, which he helped to form in 1947, Norman spoke of a gospel mission held at Cargycroy in 1962 led by two Faith Mission Pilgrims during which 50 people came to faith in Jesus Christ.
Norman also recalled John’s involvement with the Christian outreach work at Ballymacbrennan School which moved to a new facility, Ballymacbrennan School Hall, opened by John on September 30, 2000.
In his moving tribute, Dr Richardson recalled how John, who was just one inch too small to join the Police, joined the Irish Guards.
He gave an account of John’s army career. Dr Richardson went on to say that after his recovery, John worked as a farm labourer, a postman and later as a groundsman at Stormont.
He said John, will be best remembered by those who knew him best and loved him most, and was ‘redeemed’ by the precious blood of Jesus.
Dr Richardson, pointed out that John wanted the emphasis to be placed not on him but on Jesus Christ who died that we might be forgiven and go at last to Heaven, saved by His precious blood.
After the service, a lone piper of the Irish Guards paid a last moving farewell when he played for the Irish Guard veteran. His coffin was draped with an Irish Guards Association flag and a single family bouquet of flowers on top, lay at the front of the church. Interment was held afterwards in Cargycreevy Presbyterian Graveyard.
At the graveyard, ex-servicemen and members of the Irish Guards Association (Ulster Branch) paid their own tribute and a bugler sounded the last post and reveille.