Bishop of Clogher leads the funeral service for Revd Canon Mark Watson


Clogher Diocese.

The Service of Remembrance and Thanksgiving for the Life of the Revd Canon Gordon Mark Stewart Watson took place at 1pm on Thursday, 5th March 2020 in Christ Church, Maguiresbridge.

The large number of mourners who filled the church and parish hall, were led by Canon Watson’s wife, Rona; sons, Samuel and Peter as well as Canon Watson’s sister, Andrena and the wider family circle. He is also survived by his mother, Ann.

The service was conducted by the Bishop of Clogher, the Right Revd John McDowell, assisted by the Revd Abraham Storey, Ordained Local Minister, Maguiresbridge and Derrybrusk Parishes.

The hymns sung at the funeral included: “Abide with me, fast falls the eventide;” “The King of love my Shepherd is,” and “The day thou gavest Lord, is ended.” The organists were Mr. Timothy Elliott and Mrs Hazel Hogg.

Psalm 121 was read by Revd Storey while the Bishop of Clogher read from the New Testament, St. John Chapter 1, Verses 1-5.

The Nunc Dimittis, “The Song of Simeon” was said by the congregation as the coffin, draped in the Diocesan Standard, was carried from the church.

The committal took place in Derrybrusk Churchyard.

Donations in memory of Canon Mark are going to Christ Church, Maguiresbridge and Derrybrusk Parishes. The funeral arrangements were by W.T.Morrison, Funeral Directors, 41 Darling Street, Enniskillen.

The Homily was delivered by the Bishop of Clogher, the Right Revd. John McDowell;

'May all the words that I say to you be in the Name of God who called Mark and who calls each of his disciples to a life of witness of worship and of service.

'How do you begin to speak about a life as involved and as engaged as the life of Mark Watson? Perhaps the greatest testimony to the impact of that life is the enormous number of people here today and the even greater number who have contacted Mark’s family over the past number of days to express their desperate grief at his passing. I know that Mark’s family, and especially those who loved him most and who he loved best - his wife Rona and his sons Samuel and Peter - would want me to thank all of you. Your expressions of affection and indeed of love for Mark and sympathy for his family at a time of bitter grief are greatly appreciated.

'Mark’s family have also asked me to express their immense thanks and admiration for all who cared for Mark, especially the nurses who were his more or less constant companions over the past six months and more - for whom nothing was too much trouble and whose skill and dedication were limitless.

'So, where to start. Well, maybe the best place to start is by saying something that no one can contradict. Mark Watson was a big man. He was a big man who loved God from the beginning of his life and was loved by God to the end of his life. And he now rests in the love of God.

'Mark Watson was a big man. A big family man. A big presence in the parishes where he served. A big influence in the many organisations to which he belonged. A big contributor to the communities he lived in. He was a life enhancer. You never came away from him indifferent. You were either a bit happier than when you first went in or sometimes a bit more annoyed, because he was extraordinarily stubborn.

'I first came across Mark when we were both studying for Orders in TCD in the early 1990s. He was the year ahead of me and he would occasionally remind me that he was the “senior man”. He was quite a presence even in those days, holding court in the Common Room; giving all who would listen the benefit of his views on a wide range of subject matter. His passions in those days (and they didn’t change much over the years) were, in no particular order, The Book of Common Prayer (1662), Wolverhampton Wanderers FC, and tubes of Pringles. At 6.00am on the Feast of St Andrew each year, he paraded around the bedroom corridors of the Theological College in Braemor Park, playing Flower of Scotland on the bagpipes. But my most vivid single memory of Mark from those days, was when he was cast in the part of the baby Jesus in the nativity play, in Greek, which was performed each year. His Greek wasn’t great so he needed a non-speaking part.

'A devotion to the Book of Common Prayer and to Wolverhampton Wanderers. Those were two sides of Mark’s expansive character. Two sides but not a divided person; in fact a peculiarly integrated one. There really was no “other side” to Mark. No deviousness at all. There was indeed in many ways a childlike openness about him, which is one of the reasons why he was such an effective pastor. I never met anyone who took such enormous pleasure in being appointed to a Prebendary stall in the Cathedral, or who enjoyed more it’s ancient title. As I say a big man, but with a very unthreatening presence, which is so important when dealing with people one to one, especially in difficult circumstances. I suppose I could sum all that up in one brief phrase - “a big man; but not a big ego”.

'Had he his faults? Of course he had (and I am under strict instructions from Rona not to come all that angel guff) and no one knew them better than those who were closest to him. Of course he had his faults and such was his lack of guile that he wouldn’t have dreamed of trying to conceal them or to pretend he was something he was not. The only thing hidden or concealed about Mark were the countless acts of love and generosity which he did in secret. We are in the season of Lent and many of you will have heard last week’s Gospel reading “Do not do your acts of generosity in public as the hypocrites do, for they have their reward...but do your acts of kindness in secret and your Heavenly Father, who sees in secret will reward you...” Or in the words of a great English poet “Do good by stealth and blush to find it fame”.

'He cared for people and he respected them. He was interested in them and in their families. He was a true Christian also in the sense that when he committed himself to something he didn’t give up. The Orange Order of which he was a loyal and critical and constructive member and senior office holder. Similarly with the Royal Black Preceptory. Tireless service, cheerfully given; and in the words of Common Prayer which he loved so deeply...”God loveth a cheerful giver”. An intensely practical person he had a gift and a passion for building things as the parishes of Florencecourt, Brackeville, and Trory and Killadeas will attest. They didn’t need anything built in Maguiresbridge and Derrybrusk, so he was in the process of building them up in faith, hope and love instead, before a series of very serious illnesses curtailed him in that vocation.

'There were two places where it was easiest to see Mark “at rest” as it were. His natural habitat. One was in a boat or by a river. He was a very accomplished fisherman (and a good cook of what he caught) and each year looked forward to this time of year when Spring would arrive and the boat would be got ready and his thoughts would turn to Fanad in Donegal, perhaps his favourite place in all the world.

'The other place where you could see Mark relaxed was at home. Rona was simply the love of his life and both Mark and she were rightly proud of their two sons, Samuel and Peter who they both shaped...but shaped not so much in their own image, as tried hard to burnish the image of the God in whom they were made. A stable, loving and practical household, where skills of all sorts were passed on from one generation to the next. And it is Rona, Samuel and Peter, along with Mark’s mum Ann and sister Andrena who are most in our prayers today and I trust in the many days to come when they will benefit from them.

'About the tragedy of Mark’s death I have only this to say. Over the past few years, but particularly over the past 18 months, Mark suffered a number of the most horrible, demoralising illnesses. Those of us who knew him were full of admiration for the courage and determination and cheerfulness with which he faced them. During all this time his appetite for work was entirely unabated. He would drag himself to his duties and the fulfilment of his vocation regardless.

'But the particular condition he suffered from over the past while was utterly unendurable. Only Rona, Samuel and Peter are fully aware of just how deadly and destructive it was. Day by day Mark was being ground between the agonising millstones of life’s bitterest experiences; of desperate uncertainty and utter despair. It is only those who know very little of such trials, or who have been sheltered from life’s most devastating experiences, whose confidence comes from never having had their self confidence shaken, who would have the temerity to pass a judgement.

'To some degree we are all born into greatness. Great gifts, great prospects, great futures. We inherit all that the civilisation of centuries has gifted to us. We are fed on these gifts and we grow and mature and hand them on. We think we are indestructible and that nothing can touch us.

'But in each of us also there is a frail seam; an old wound; a primeval scar which has never quite healed; and a lameness falls on us, and we are halted in our stride. Pride falters, and the high seems low, and the hour is short, and the brief candle is out, and what is man that he is to be accounted of? And the greatness of the soul is more apparent in the greatness of its misery than in the triumph of its powers.

'But for Mark Watson, although the light burned very dim at times, it was never entirely extinguished. The light shone in the darkness but the darkness did not overcome it. We need to remember that cruel and tragic death is not unknown to God. We need to remember, as I think Mark knew, that Jesus Christ went deeper into human suffering even than any disease could go and that he rose on the third day with a kingdom in His had. And that his final words in St John’s Gospel, “It is finished” don’t mean it’s over and done with. They mean it is completed. There is nothing more to be done. And now it is yours. It is the gift I give to you.

'Just as his brother Jesus was his companion in life so in death. From the day of Mark’s baptism until 2 March 2020, Jesus never let go of Mark’s hand; and he never will.

'All of these words I have offered to our God and to you my brothers and sisters out of my unworthy heart. And may the Lord have mercy on us all. AMEN'