Death of Paul Crawford

Paul went down fighting…and he’ll be sadly missed.

He refused to let his bodily weaknesses interfere with his ambition to see the world.

Dunmurry man Paul Crawford had become a good friend to Evelyn and me over the past few years and it was with great sadness that we joined his family, school-pals  and other acquaintances for a service of thanksgiving for his life in Ronnie Thompson’s Funeral Church in Lisburn last Thursday conducted by Rev. Bobby Liddle. Paul was only 47 and a man still very much in love with life.

Paul, his sister Avril told us, was his late mother Chrystal’s blue–eyed boy but had to leave home soon after losing his hearing at the age of nine and winning a place at the prestigious Mary Hare Grammar School for deaf children in Berkshire, which he enjoyed immensely and made many good lifelong friends. After leaving school Paul worked as a laboratory technician in Queen’s University for over 25 years.

We got to know Paul very well over many lunches and coffee mornings and soon found that his passion in life was travel. He had managed to see most of the world, enjoyed the excitement and glamour and told us about the crowded Hong Kong streets, the warmth and beauty of Thailand, the grandeur of the Great China Wall and the ageless magic of Cuba. Along with some old school pals he had sailed among the Caribbean islands in a hired yacht and indulged in scuba diving in the placid warm water. “Hearing folk can’t talk to each other under water”, he had told us with a laugh, “but deaf people can still sign to each other”.

From the printed handout at the funeral, we learned that Paul – who never married – loved a lively debate (as long as he was on the winning side) and chatting up the ladies! His sense of humour was legendary and even when things were very tough he always managed to crack a joke. He was fiercely independent, and if anyone told him he couldn’t do a thing because of his health or safety, he would set out to prove them wrong and find a way to do it anyway. He loved to visit people and find out what was going on in their lives. Distance was no object.

We enjoyed an informative lunch one day with Paul and his good friend Hazel at the Beechlawn Hotel, just round the corner from his lovely home at Dunmurry, and Hazel describes Paul as being kind, funny, a wonderful story-teller who could make her cry with laughter. Yes, and he also could be stubborn, critical and argumentative at times. All in all, a good, good man, she said.

The deafness that struck Paul at nine was accompanied by eye problems and in his late teens he developed breathing difficulties and muscle weakness. He refused to let these bodily weaknesses interfere with his ambition to see as much of the world as possible. But a few years ago, on his way home after a memorable visit to Thailand, he became seriously ill and bird-flu was suspected. The plane was met in Belfast by white-suited, masked and goggled doctors and other medical staff and he was rushed to an isolation ward in the Royal. All visitors were banned until the all-clear was given, but Paul still saw the comical side of the situation and texted me with a humorous account of his inability to lip-read the doctors and nurses with their masks and the thick gloves that prevented them signing or writing notes.

The illness, whatever it was, greatly affected Paul’s breathing and sleep became very difficult without the help of various apparatus. He refused to buckle and on recovery was able to enjoy a cruise in a luxury liner with Hazel, but it was heart-breaking to watch him gradually weaken and suffer. Unable even to join us for lunch,  we called at his home with rolls and soup and it was there he showed us the letter from his senior doctor with confirmation of the untreatable motor neurone disease.

Paul will be particularly missed by his father Robin, older brother Alan and his wife Kally, younger sister Avril and husband Jeff, niece Sara and husband Alan.

from Bob Mc Cullough

Gail Walker
Features Editor 
Belfast Telegraph