ROBERT HILARY GAWN
At the recent Sunday School service in Larne Methodist Church the
Hilary Gawn Memorial Trophy was awarded for the second time to Lucy
and Scott Brownlow for the most money collected in 2015 on the Junior
Mission For All collection cards.
The photograph shows Mrs Patricia Gawn, Lucy and Scott Brownlow,
and new Sunday School Superintendent Ashley Thompson who recently
took over the position from Colin Henderson after his many years
of service to the Sunday School.
While the presentation of the trophy has been an annual event in the church
for many years, this time it caused me to think back on the life and times of
the man in whose memory the trophy was given to the church by his widow
Patricia (otherwise Pat) Gawn after his death on the 26th December 1979.
A long time ago but he is still fresh in the memory of many of our older
He spent most of his working life with Larne Borough Council where his sense
of humour and ability not to take formal council occasions too seriously made
him a bit of a legend. On one occasion when the Governor of Northern
Ireland was in the Borough for a formal visit and lunch, Hilary was deputised
to announce that lunch was served. With his usual good humour he leaned in
the door and announced “ boys your dinners ready”.
I personally have the warmest memories of Hilary in his life in the church and
as a loyal supporter of Larne Football Club for years along with his good friends Billy McCaw and Billy Rainey.
He was Circuit Steward, Society Steward and Pew Steward
among other offices held in the Church and a longtime member of the
Badminton Club and the Youth Guild ( similar to today’s youth fellowship) .
He also helped to run the junior badminton club that met on Saturday evenings.
He was a jack of all trades and when one young member broke their
badminton racket and could not afford another Hilary took it home and
repaired it and the racket remained in use for a good few years after that.
However his most memorable contributions were to the Sunday School and
Young Worshipers League. He was the Sunday School Secretary
for many years and carried out his duties with his usual meticulous care. His
welcome to the children and his care and concern for them was without equal.
He was just part of the furniture and was so sorely missed by all when God called
He was born in the 1st May 1917 in Point Street Larne. His father was
Robert Gawn a shoemaker and his mother Matilda Gawn ( nee Boyd).
When his father died the shoemakers premises in Point Street were turned into
a tearoom managed by his mother and called “ Gawn’s Tearooms”.
Hilary was the third of 4 children and the whole family were well known in
His sister Nell started the Girls Life Brigade in the Larne Church but eventually
emigrated to Australia.
His younger sister Alice always lived in Larne and became a member of
Craigy Hill Church when it opened.
His only brother David married May Reid , moved to Belfast and became a
faithful member of Jennymount Methodist Church.
Also a member of Jennymount was Hilary’s future wife Patricia Adair.
Hilary met Patricia at the wedding of his neice Anna in June 1973 and not
being one to hang around, only six months later he and Pat were
engaged to be married.
Ever the romantic Hilary wooed Pat with roses and tomatoes from his garden
every time they met. They were married on 10th September 1974 at
Jennymount Methodist Church by Rev. Stanley Ross assisted by the
Rev. Henry Gilpin who was the minister of Larne Methodist Church at the time.
Also present were the Rev and Mrs Jack Young and Mr and Mrs Jim McWilliams
the great grand-parents of Lucy and Scott Brownlow who were firm friends
of the couple. Indeed before his marriage, for many
years he was like a member of the McWilliams family went on holidays with
them and every Sunday evening after church he came to the McWlliams
for his supper and often during the week as well.
Very sadly Hilary suffered a coronary attack on 5th July 1979 from which he
was making a good recovery but suffered a further coronary on Christmas
night on 25th December 1979 and passed to glory on 26th December.
His marriage to Pat was somewhat late in his life and their marriage was, sadly,
a short one but it was evident to all that during the years they shared
together they were a blissfully happy couple.
Pat has continued to this day as a faithful member of Larne Church as a choir
Member, holding the office of Circuit Steward for many years as well a
assisting the Carnlough Church by acting as Society Treasurer.
The Hilary Gawn Trophy was presented by Pat to the Church in 1981 and over
Some have been frequent recipients and to be awarded the trophy has
always been regarded as a great encouragement for children continuing
to work hard for JMA.