Tributes have been pouring in for a prominent Ballycastle businessman who sadly passed yesterday (Thursday, August 21).
James Spence, Jim to his friends and family, ran the furniture and gas supply business ‘Northern Furniture Company’ on Castle Street for decades and was well known by both the business and local community.
Chairman of Ballycastle Chamber of Commerce explains: “On behalf of the Chamber and the local business community I would like to express my sadness at hearing the news.
“Jim was a great man who illustrated tremendous commitment to his work and his customers. He was in his 80s at least and despite his ill health he worked through his sickness and was a real grafter.
“He was a true friend and gentleman and an inspiration to us all. Only six weeks ago I called into the shop to buy carpet and he was there working away and was only too pleased to help me.
“Jim was a wee character and always put his family and customers first. His passing is a great loss to the business and entire community as a whole.
“Our thoughts are with his wife Florrie, daughter Fiona and the entire family circle.”
Moyle Council Chairman Dónal Cunningham agreed: “Ballycastle will miss Jim Spence, we have lost one of the real gentlemen of the local community, Jim was one of the town’s greatest characters; he was a true friend of everyone in the local community.
“Owner of the famous furniture and gas supply business “Northern Furniture Company”, his Castle Street shop retained the charm and character of an earlier and less complicated period and was much loved by locals and visitors.
“Although he experienced poor health in his later years, we will remember, Jim as a man of energy, verve, compassion and humour. His warm instincts and sharp intelligence made him engaging and effective.
“Many families, individuals and charities have benefited from his wisdom, advice and financial contributions. We have lost one of the best in Ballycastle. He will be sorely missed. I extend my sympathy to his wife, daughter the entire family circle.”
Cllr Cara McShane added: “My sympathies and prayers goes to the Spence family. Jim was well known throughout Ballycastle and the wider community. He work for several generations helping the local people furnish their homes.
“He was highly regarded within the business community and was an institution throughout these parts. Jim will be sadly missed as he was always on hand to help his customers - his death will be a big loss!”
Jim also had a great involvement in The Market Yard within the town and he is quoted on Moyle Community Archive website as ‘One of the faces of Ballycastle’. He says: “I worked in the Market Yard to John Patrick, before I started my own business […] Beans used to come in from Rathlin Island, they had to be weighed, but they were mostly, their bags were full of stones […]. The pigs was weighed, and the cattle were weighed, they had to be a certain weight. […] I had nothing to do with the Turkeys and the hens at Christmas. The Market Street was just tail to tail with Horse and carts coming into the sell their Turkeys and their Geese and Chickens and stuff for Christmas.” You can listen more on www.niarchive.org
Jim’s funeral will take place from the Castle Street shop at 1.30pm on Sunday, August 24 for a service on arrival in Ballycastle Presbyterian Church. Family flowers only with donations in lieu of flowers to The Cancer Centre for the British Lung Foundation. Cheques made payable to James Craig, c/o James Craig and Sons, 57 Castle Street, Ballycastle. BT54 6AS.
More tributes in this week’s Ballymoney and Moyle Times.