Funeral held for popular local clergyman and teacher

The Rev David Somerville
The Rev David Somerville

A former local minister and Rathfriland High School teacher who died suddenly at the weekend was a ‘best friend’ in his most recent parish.

Over 700 people turned out yesterday (Monday) for the funeral of Rev David Somerville who had been serving in St Matthew’s Church of Ireland in Richhill, where his funeral took place.

The popular father-of-three died suddenly on Saturday morning, having packed careers as a teacher, a police officer and a cleric into his 57 years.

He is survived by two children from his first marriage, Ian and Sarah, and another son, Dan, from his second marriage to May in 2005.

“It was an absolutely massive crowd, there must have been over 100 clergy there,” said Rev Willie Nixon, rector from St Patrick’s Parish Church at Drumbeg, who preached the funeral sermon.

Both the church and the church hall were full to capacity with dozens of mourners left standing outside.

“He was my best man and I was his,” Rev Nixon said, describing how he had lost a very close friend.

Rev Somerville had previously told loved ones that his funeral message should focus on three things: “The cross, the resurrection and the second coming of Christ,” Rev Nixon said.

“I reminded the congregation that we have a great hope because Christ has died, therefore our sins are dealt with; Christ has risen, therefore death is defeated and our hope for heaven is that Christ will come again to take us there.”

He said that Rev Somerville came to faith as a young boy at a children’s meeting in Knocknamuckley.

He was a Boys Brigade officer for many years, only resigning at 38 due to other responsibilities.

He also served 20 years as an RUC Reservist and later went on to serve 17 years as a teacher at Rathfriland High School.

Rev Somerville was ordained as a deacon in Lisburn in 2000, was priested in 2001, was installed as rector in Rathfriland in 2003 where he served for ten years, and was then made rector at Richhill in 2013.

“People of that parish are just devastated,” Rev Nixon said. “One elderly man came up to me today and said: ‘He came to us as a stranger two-and-a-half-years ago and leaves us as our best friend.’”

The cleric added: “When he came into a room you could have not have missed him.

“He knew about pain and he knew how to journey with people in pain.

“That is why he was such a good pastor – that was where his true gifting lay.”