Billy Jasper

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Billy Jasper's funeral: grandson's tribute

My Granda, William Billy Jasper, or Big Billy Jasper as he was affectionately known was born on the 29th of January 1936  in Belfast. Now, I’m reliably informed that the 1950s Botanic Gardens was the place to be and one Sunday night it was here that he met his future wife Mary. Despite him telling her on that night that he wanted to marry her, his future mother-in-law had other ideas and he had to wait four years until the 19th of September 1959 and they got married in this very church. The picture from that day is actually at the back of the order of service. Now, its worth noting that those days during his four years of courtship my Granda had to make the long journey back to where he lived on foot because he had a tendency of missing the last bus and that wee theme of walking continues later on. Over the years Billy worked a number of jobs. He started off with the paper round before becoming a message boy for a printing firm, a solicitors office and a chemist, although not all at the same time. He went on to work for McCue & Dick in the timber yard and would return home at night with his shoulders red raw from carrying timber around. He also worked in the ship yard for Belfast City council. In amongst those jobs he had a short stint working in a mattress factory on the Shankill Road which came to a premature end when he was sacked for forgetting to head back to work after spending his lunch hour in the snooker hall. Eventually, Billy finally found something that he was good at many years working as a roofer. It seemed that every time we got together as a family over the last couple of years there was another job that he had forgotten to mention to us and we’ll probably spend all day here talking about them. An number of these jobs resulted in him having to work away from home, leaving on Monday morning and not getting back until Friday evening.

My Gran would fondly tell the story rightly of being woken up out of her sleep in the early hours of the morning by knocking on her door and when she went down an opened it she was met by my Granda willy returning from Magherafelt or Enniskillen or beyond just to tell her he loved her because he couldn’t sleep. 

Even after returning home from a long working week my Granda always made time for his two children, Bill and Pauline. He rightly made the trip into town for lunch on a Saturday to give Mary a well-deserved rest having looked after the kids all week. My mum Pauline vividly remembers long walks to Barnes park on the Sunday mornings. Walking didn’t stop there though. My Mum’s place at her dad’s side was later replicated by his three grand children. First me, then Karen and Leah. 

Up until recent times when his health began to deteriorate Billy also looked forward to getting away on holiday several times a year. Some holidays were rightly spent with his young family in the Isle of Man, Blackpool and in the later years in Portugal with his good friends Pat and Dan. Billy was always very proud of the fact that he could save up and take Mary away on holiday every year.

Now, although Billy had suffered from ill-health for the past number of years he still insisted on getting out rather than, his words not mine, “Sitting here looking at these four walls,” and thankfully even up until before he passed away we as a family were blessed with the privilege of getting to spend time with him reminiscing over a pint in the Buffs watching the Celtic and Rangers.

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