Mountain rescue team founder a man of ‘vision’, mourners told

Uel Hamilton, a 72-year-old father of one, passed away on Saturday after more than three decades of volunteering work
Uel Hamilton, a 72-year-old father of one, passed away on Saturday after more than three decades of volunteering work

A brave volunteer who dedicated decades of his life to rescuing others was a man of “vision”, mourners at his funeral in Londonderry heard yesterday.

Samuel Cecil Ronald (Uel) Hamilton, a 72-year-old father of one, passed away on Saturday following a six-year battle with cancer.

Mr Hamilton was well known in Londonderry for his volunteering efforts, having helped set up the North West Mountain Rescue Team some 36 years ago, and having also spent over two decades volunteering with Foyle Search and Rescue.

A celebration of his life took place at Kilfennan Presbyterian Church yesterday.

Reverend Rob Craig urged mourners to learn the lessons of vision, volunteering and rescue from Mr Hamilton’s life.

“Some 36 years ago Uel and others had a vision,” Rev Craig said.

“I mean very simply that they saw a need and saw how they could try and meet that need – the need for a mountain rescue team. They didn’t let the difficulties put them off; they were dedicated to the task. They started with nothing other than what they had themselves – their own equipment and cars. But they had a vision and they grew it.

“What better tribute could we pay to Uel than this: that if we see a need and see that we can do something about it, that we act in response to that vision.”

Mr Hamilton’s brave rescue efforts had saved many, Rev Craig said.

“Only those of you who have served on such rescue missions with Uel will know how many times he was out there with you, in all kinds of weather and situations; and how many are today grateful for the work of the rescue team.”

He continued: “Money, it is sometimes said, makes the world go round. ‘What’s in it for me?’ is often asked. We speak of payback. But that’s not the whole story; nor indeed half of the story of our life and our world.

“Volunteering to serve on rescue teams in the mountains and along the river, we see in Uel and his fellow team workers that volunteering is vital.

“Be it for either of these rescue teams, be it ‘out in the action’ or behind the scenes; or be it in some other way, when you next are asked to do something, when you next are asked to volunteer, do it in memory of Uel.”

Rev Craig added: “My final word is the word rescue – be it the river or the mountains, several of you will have received the call to go out. Whoever the person, whatever the reason, it doesn’t matter – their rescue becomes your priority. I am sure that you imbibed plenty of good lessons about that from Uel.

“At its very heart, the mission of Jesus was a rescue mission.”

Mr Hamilton was laid to rest at Ballyoan Cemetery.