TRIBUTES have been paid to a well-known Strabane man who passed away at the weekend.
Billy Diver, who was aged in his 70s and from Carrick Strand in the town, had been suffering from ill-health and passed away at his home on Sunday. His funeral service is due to take place this morning (Wednesday).
Described by many who knew him as a “true gentleman”, Mr Diver is well-known for having run Divers Guns & Tackle Shop in the town centre alongside his wife, Francena. The couple retired from the business over a decade ago.
A keen fisherman in his day, he spent a lifetime doing what he could to bring more life to the town. In fact, when it comes to angling in the locality, his name is sure to be the first on many peoples’ mind!
As a founder member of the Strabane Lifford Anglers Association alongside Stephen McGale, Mr Diver's passion for fishing saw him turning an almost lifeless stretch of the River Mourne into one of the finest fishing spots in the country.
Following six years of planning, Billy's vision became a reality and the group secured funding to launch the 'Between the Bridges' project in 2002 which saw the creation of pools for fish to spawn and flourish in the local river system as well as creating much-needed jobs in the area – one of his many great achievements.
The idea came from the Diver family's many holidays to Ballina, Co Mayo, where Mr Diver loved nothing more than to fish. He also sponsored numerous fishing competitions locally and helped inspire many young anglers.
Such was the enormity of his selfless actions and the difference they have made to the lives of others in his community, Mr Diver was named as a finalist in SuperValu’s ‘Superstar’ competition, last year. Also, in homage to the father of seven’s tireless work and huge contribution to local fishing, a section of the river was named after him – ‘Billy’s Pool’.
News of his passing has prompted widespread tributes and much sadness.
In a statement on its Facebook page, the local Anglers Association said: “Strabane and Lifford Anglers Association would like to offer their sincere condolences to the family and friends of founding member, Billy Diver, on his passing.
“The angling and sporting circles in Strabane and surrounding areas owe a debt of gratitude to Billy for the work, effort and inspiration he brought to Strabane. He was one of a kind and will be fondly remembered by all who had the pleasure of knowing him. Rest in peace Billy.”
Elsewhere, staff at the Bridge Guns & Tackle shop in Strabane also paid tribute: “Billy was an absolute legend on the Strabane fishing scene and will be greatly missed by all.” Sion Mills Angling Club also offered its condolences.
Tributes have also poured in on social media. Among them read: “So sorry to hear of Billy’s passing. A good man, a family man.” Another added: “RIP to a true gentleman.”
Mr Diver’s Requiem Mass will take place this morning at 10am in St Mary’s Church, Melmount, with burial afterwards in the adjoining cemetery.
He is survived by his wife, Francena, the couple’s children Diane, Mary, Billy, Gerard, Aishling, Theresa and Peter, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and wider family circle.