Alexander Wilson was born on 8 June 1927 to William and Elizabeth Wilson.
He had 6 siblings Evelyn, Billy, Harold, Ella, John and Kenny
His first marriage, to Freda produced two children; David and Karen.
Alex was grandfather to David’s children Steven and Christopher.
In 1979 Alex married Elizabeth Williams and he became stepfather to me and my 6 siblings.
Mum was plagued with ill health and passed away in 1985.
More recently, Alex own health started to deteriorate and in 2008 he went into hospital.
He spent his remaining years in residential homes including Joymount in Carrick.
Alex passed away peacefully on Saturday in Masserene in Antrim.
Those are the bald facts and say nothing about the man.
They say nothing of his childhood in the Longlands in Newtonabbey.
Alex often talked of playing in the fields around that part of East Antrim
He talked of running up “The Glen” with his pals.
He talked of sneaking up the cave hill hoping not to be caught by his parents.
He talked fondly of going to Christmas parties at the Throne as a child and going dancing at the Floral Hall as a young man.
The facts say nothing about his working life.
Alex travelled the country working as a steel erector with his best friend Andy Lamont.
He worked for many years in the ICI, and after a brief stint in the RUC, Alex working life finished as a building labourer and a gardener.
The facts say nothing of his hobbies.
Alex played football everywhere he went including playing for Caernarvon Town in the Welsh First Division.
He also played the Euphonium in the Whitewell Silver Band.
Alex loved gardening, walking and animals.
He used to walk our dog Emma for miles.
When Emma eventually died of exhaustion Alex walked his friends and neighbours dogs.
Alex loved his motors, as he called them.
The mark one Cortina with the vinyl roof.
The Fiat Uno with the dodgy lambda probe.
The Mazda 323, the red Escort estate, the midnight blue Fiesta.
Alex loved them all.
The yellow Vauxhall Chevette.
That car always broke down.
He called it the shove it.
And those facts say nothing of the relationship I had with the man I knew simply as Alex.
I can’t remember a time when Alex wasn’t in my life.
He met my mum when I was just a little boy.
Just a nipper, as Alex would say.
Throughout my childhood and teens he provided continuity.
Alex was always there for me.
Our relationship and the influence he had on me is proof that nurture, as well as nature, shapes a person.
And shape me he did. I shared many significant firsts with Alex -
My first beer,
My first football match,
My first time driving a car.
The great thing about Alex, was all those firsts took place, when I was nine years of age.
If I had to pick three words or phrases to describe Alex they would be opinionated, determined, and funny.
Starting with opinionated, Alex always had an opinion, he had an opinion on everything from the cost of petrol in Ireland to the cost of a pint in London.
Nothing, however, got him riled more than the BBC.
The scandalous salaries they paid to the likes of Terry Wogan,
The scandalous number of people the BBC take to world cups and Olympics,
And the scandalous arrogance of weather forecasters who send all the lousy weather to Whitehead.
Particularly when he has to put a washing out.
The second of the three words I associate with Alex is determination.
Alex never expected to live to 2012.
He suffered with angina for many years, and in 1995 he had a quintuple heart bypass.
Alex wanted to live long enough to see in the millennium but truthfully due to his heart condition he knew he could go at any time.
However Alex had a strength and stubbornness which is utterly staggering.
When faced with these health problems, he didn’t blink.
He changed his attitude, he changed his diet, he changed his entire lifestyle to give himself a chance.
His diet and exercise regime probably added twenty years to his life.
When I was young I remember Alex liked nothing more than a can of lager when he came in from work.
His change of lifestyle meant the lager went.
Alex only drank on special occasions.
One such occasion, he declared, was when he visited me in Southampton in 1995.
That holiday was about six months after his bypass operation and Alex’s health was in sharp focus.
On the first night we went to the pub, and Alex wouldn’t let anyone else buy a pint.
Every time a glass emptied he would leap up and get another round in.
After about six or seven pints Alex declared it was time to go home.
I got up, put my coat on and staggered to the loo.
On my way back I stopped for a chat with the barman, Simon.
“I’ve had about three too many” I remarked ”I amazed Alex can still stand”
Simon smiled and said ”that’s alcohol free lager for you”
Alex was always on the lookout for anything which might help his health.
Later the same week he found something which fitted the bill.
The house I lived in had a large mirror in the kitchen where my flatmate fixed his hair each morning.
The top of the microwave was awash with hair gels and hair creams.
Alex was in the kitchen making himself a cup of tea.
He came in to the lounge with a tube of L’Oreal hair gel emblazoned with the words contains multi-vitamins.
Alex had spotted a new weapon in his bid to remain healthy.
He asked if he could use some.
“Of course” I replied
I sat back and waited for him to emerge from the kitchen expecting him to look like he had put his fingers in a socket.
Instead he came out eating a piece of toast.
“This stuff must be good for you” He said “it tastes disgusting”
Alex’s attitude, stubbornness and determination allowed him to defy the odds.
He lived until he was 85.
When our dog Emma died, he said he wouldn’t get another because it would outlive him.
“I would only leave you with a dog to look after.” he would say when I tried to persuade him.
If he had a got a dog when Emma died, and it had outlived him, we wouldn’t be celebrating Alex life today we would be celebrating the miracle of the 23 year old dog.
The final word I used to describe Alex was funny.
It is the one I will remember him most for.
As I have said Alex helped shape me.
The greatest gift he gave me was an ability to find the humour in all situations at the most inappropriate of times and in the darkest of circumstances.
Alex favourite humour was the simplest forms of humour.
He sniggered at Dave Allan, he laughed at Les Dawson, he roared at Morecambe and Wise.
There was only one thing Alex loved more than a Laurel and Hardy film.
He loved seeing Jerry being chased by Tom.
He loved seeing Tom stand on the end of a rake.
It tickled him pink.
Alex was a shadow of his former self in the last few years.
I will be forever grateful to the McNally family and particularly Michael and Lorna for providing the support Alex needed.
I have missed Alex since he became ill, and I will miss him for years to come.
Rest in peace old friend.