A LONE piper played on the steps of the Silverbirch Hotel in Omagh as the town paid its last respects to one of the most popular figures in Tyrone’s hospitality sector.
Well-known hotelier Jimmy Duncan passed away peacefully at his home in Oakland Court, Omagh, on Thursday morning. He was 76-years-old.
A native of Drumquin, Mr Duncan (pictured right) and his wife Hazel acquired the Silverbirch Hotel, on Gortin Road, in 1977. It is now being run by their son, Allan.
Since the closure of the Royal Arms just over 20 years ago, the Birches – as it is widely-known locally – has been the only hotel within the town of Omagh. Countless local couples have celebrated their weddings at the venue, while it has also hosted some of the biggest names in Irish country music. In a statement released on Thursday, the Duncan family said it was with “heavy hearts” that they were announcing his death.
“Jimmy’s love for life and his large personality touched the hearts of many; he will be sorely missed and lovingly remembered by Hazel, Allan, Nicola and Ella, his family circle and many friends including the staff at the Silverbirch Hotel,” the statement added.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the service of thanksgiving for Mr Duncan’s life, which was held in Trinity Presbyterian Church in Omagh on Saturday afternoon, was strictly private.
But the roads of Omagh were lined with mourners paying their last respects as the funeral cortege made its way to Mr Duncan’s final resting place in the churchyard at Drumquin Presbyterian Church.
As the cortege reached the Silverbirch Hotel, it paused for a moment of reflection. Many present and former members of staff stood outside as piper Robert McCutcheon, a friends of the Duncans, played Amazing Grace.
Then, as the cortege made its way along the Gillygooley Road, representatives of Omagh Accies rugby club turned out to warmly acknowledge Mr Duncan’s contribution over the years with a round of applause.
A long-serving member of the Accies and regular supporter on Saturday afternoons, the hotelier served as the club’s president between 1993 and 1995. The Birches also catered pre-match lunches and club dinners.
In a statement posted on its Facebook page, the club said, “His loyal support over the years has been greatly appreciated and he will be missed by all. Our thoughts go out to all the Duncan family. May he rest in peace.”
Reflecting his standing within the hospitality trade both in Tyrone and further afield, tributes have been posted up on social media from venues across the North.
The Duddy family, who own the Sperrin Restaurant outside Omagh, said, “Jimmy was a true gentleman and was well-known in the hospitality industry. We had many laughs with Jimmy over the years and will remember him fondly.
“We will open a bottle of the finest Cognac and raise a glass to Jimmy and say thank you for everything.”
The Duncan family have extended their deepest gratitude to the medical team at South West Acute Hospital, the Palliative Care Team, the District Nursing Team, Rapid Response Nursing Team and to Marie Curie for their compassionate care throughout Mr Duncan’s illness.
They have also thanked the wider community for their kind words and messages of condolence.
Mr Duncan is survived by wife Hazel, son Allan, daughter-in-law Nicola and granddaughter Ella, as well as the wider family circle.