Not a fair-weather friend!

ON March 24, last year one of Ballymoney’s most recognisable figures passed away following a lengthy illness.

Most would have remembered Sam Connor by his trademark sideburns, ruddy complexion and a cloth cap that seemed to have a permanent attachment to his head.

Then there was Sam’s bicycle which was seldom off the roads whether to bring home his groceries or to fulfil a passion of cycling for pleasure throughout Northern Ireland and beyond.

Sam died at the age of 81 in the Robinson Hospital, Ballymoney, and was laid to rest at Roseyards Presbyterian Church where his mother and his grandmother are buried.

Living in a small cottage on the old Ballymoney to Coleraine Road, Sam spent most of his time looking after his cats and the rest cycling with close friends one of whom, Lyn Brookes, a retired historian, remembers her companion with much fondness.

Lyn first encountered Sam 14 years ago when their paths crossed in Coleraine. From then on they forged a friendship and she along with Sam and another male friend would meet on a regular basis to cycle on routes and distances that would test many younger enthusiasts.

Lyn recalls that on one occasion they had been out for hours covering scores of miles and ending up in Omagh. Not long into the return journey, Sam suddenly announced: ‘Only 50 miles to go we’re nearly home now.’

It was a quip that the Rev. Jones recalled at the funeral service along with many other experiences made known to him.

Lyn said: “Sam was a very kind man with a great sense of humour. He became a very good friend and when we weren’t cycling we would meet for a meal on a regular basis. It was a pleasure to look after him in his final years.”

Sam was noted for his innocent jokes which he was quick to share with those he met. He was also renowned for his predictions of the weather and Lyn managed to keep some of Sam’s notes relating to his forecasting techniques.

Sam used nature as an indicator of weather patterns. For example he wrote: ‘The crows are diving in the sky and gathering worms in the field today. There is a storm on the way’ or ‘A ring close to the moon is a sign of a far off storm and a ring far off the moon is a sign of a near storm.’