TRIBUTE FROM EPS
Along with the broader evangelical community in Northern Ireland and beyond, the Council and supporters of the Evangelical Protestant Society were greatly saddened by the recent death of their Treasurer and Council member, Mr George Dawson MLA.
George passed away on 7 May 2007 after a short illness and was buried on what would have been his 46th birthday.
In March, George had been re-elected as a DUP member of the Northern Ireland Assembly and was looking forward to playing a full part in the new devolved arrangements. He had a particular interest in the economy, cultural issues and tourism, and many predicted that he would hold office as a Government Minister. He would also have been a most articulate and fearless advocate of Biblical standards in society. It is surely ironic that he passed away just hours before devolution was restored.
George was also Grand Master of the Independent Orange Institution, and chairman and founding member of the influential Caleb Foundation. The EPS owes a particular debt of gratitude to George Dawson. Although he had been a supporter for many years, it was not until 2000 that he became actively involved with the Society when he was appointed a Council member and Treasurer.
At that time, due to financial and administrative difficulties, the Society faced a very uncertain future, but George's wise counsel and leadership skills helped to ensure not only survival but expansion. He played a pivotal role in consolidation and in developing a strategic vision for the Society in the 21st century.
Today, the EPS is stronger than ever, and we have a growing number of supporters, not only in Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom, but throughout the world. That is just one of George Dawson's lasting legacies.
George had the unique gift of not only being able to analyse and grasp the details of an often complex issue, but also being able to articulate a clear evangelical viewpoint on that issue to the media and elsewhere. In that sense alone, he will be very hard to replace.
The tributes paid to George in the days after his death confirmed that he was held in the highest esteem by all who knew him. Those who did not always see eye-to-eye with him spoke of his integrity, ability, sincerity, warmth and good humour.
The huge and representative attendance at his funeral in Randalstown Free Presbyterian Church also illustrated the extent of the respect in which he was held. Elsewhere in the magazine, we include the moving tribute paid at the funeral by Pastor Eric McComb, superintendent of the Elim Churches in Ireland and George's cousin. We also include a warm tribute by the BBC presenter William Crawley with whom George had many a sharp exchange on Radio Ulster's "Sunday Sequence".
Humanly speaking, it is virtually impossible to understand why such a loving husband and father, and an immensely talented and committed Christian who had so much to offer, should be taken from us at such a young age.
Our sympathy and prayers are with his family, especially his wife, Vi, and young daughters, Sara and Emma, who will miss him most of all. But we will all miss him. We will miss his wisdom, companionship, friendship and encouragement. Just after George died, a verse of Scripture seemed, and still seems, very relevant.
Revelation 14:13"Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them"
George's work on earth is done and he is now resting from his labours. It is our duty to continue with the work in which he was so faithfully engaged. Indeed, it is the least we can do.
A Tribute which appeared on William Crawley's Blog website 7 May 2007
"I was very sad to learn tonight that George Dawson has died. He was only 45 years old and had been ill for a short time. I first met George five years ago, soon after I began presenting Sunday Sequence. He's been a very frequent contributor to the programme since then -- either as chairman of the Caleb Foundation, a director of the Evangelical Protestant Society, Grand Master of the Independent Orange Order, or, since 2003, as a DUP Assembly Member.
He's also joined me a few times on Talk Back when I've presented. In every case, he would walk into the newsroom studio in Broadcasting House, a confident, wide smile on his face, and we'd banter one another before the green light went on. He was a natural broadcaster and a brilliant debater - put him in any discussion and you could be sure the sparks would fly.
I last saw George outside the TV green room on the day the Assembly election results poured in. He'd been on air with Noel Thompson as part of the BBC's live Assembly coverage, discussing the implications of the DUP's wins that night -- and he'd a lot to smile about. We met in the corridor: I joked with him about the colour of his TV make-up and he gave as good as he got in return, then agreed to take part in our live discussion the following Sunday morning.
On that Sunday's programme, he enjoyed a joke with Ken Newell, the former Moderator, about the "miracle" of power-sharing - and he was so looking forward to being at the Assembly tomorrow to see the miracle take shape. I've no doubt that George would eventually have played a very significant role in the government, probably capitalising on his expertise in business.
My thoughts tonight are with his wife, Vi, and their two young children. I don't know what George would have made of the theology of the 19th century English preacher with whom he shared a name; but a prayer composed by his namesake seems particularly appropriate tonight:
A Prayer for Comfort by George Dawson (1821-1876)
'Grant unto us, Almighty God, in all time of sore distress, the comfort of the forgiveness of our sins. In time of darkness give us blessed hope, in time of sickness of body give us quiet courage; and when the heart is bowed down, and the soul is very heavy, and life is a burden, and pleasure a weariness, and the sun is too bright, and life too mirthful, then may that Spirit, the Spirit of the Comforter, come upon us, and after our darkness may there be the clear shining of the heavenly light; that so, being uplifted again by Thy mercy, we may pass on through this our mortal life with quiet courage, patient hope, and unshaken trust, hoping through Thy loving-kindness and tender mercy to be delivered from death into the large life of the eternal years. Hear us of Thy mercy, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.'"
The Tribute Paid By Pastor Eric McComb At George Dawson's Funeral
George was born on 10 May 1961, son of Richard & Myrtle Dawson, a brother for Fergus. Fergus & George were opposites in many ways, but they shared a deep brotherly love and were always very close. They lived at Gibson's Hill on the outskirts of Lurgan, it was in the Mission Hall there where they attended Sunday School.
George went to Kings Park School in Lurgan, then Banbridge Academy and Queens University. It was at the Academy where he first set eyes on Vi, or vice versa, while it was not love at first sight, that would come later, and then in July 1990 they were married. They were blessed with two lovely girls Emma & Sara. Vi, Emma & Sara were precious to George.
Today our thoughts and prayers are in particular with Vi, Emma and Sara for them the loss is greatest, and most particularly felt, through the passing of a loving husband and devoted father. Also to Fergus on the death of his friend and brother.
From an early age he was a member of the Independent Orange Order. In 1977 he was secretary of Lurgan Faith Defenders. He served as Assistant Grand Secretary for three years prior to his appointment in 1985 as Imperial Grand Secretary for nine years. He was honoured to be appointed Grand Master in 1992, at the age of thirty-one, a position he was to hold for the past fifteen years.
His respect by the brethren was such that the normal process of change every three years was not implemented. He graced this office with great distinction, fulfilling his duties with dignity and expertise. Always above all things, witnessingto the Gospel of so Great Salvation. His enthusiasm and vision was in no small way responsible for the purchase of the Headquarters for the Independent Orange Order in Ballymoney. I was responsible for the sale of this building and one day I told him, "George, we want to sell you this building, not give it to you!"
His involvement with the Credit Union organisation was just one of the many wider contributions he made to Society. He was chairman of the Riada Credit Union Ltd. His membership of the DUP goes back over many years. At all times he was fully committed to the party, and no doubt had it not been for recent poor health, George would have been considered for ministerial office.
George could talk! However, his ability to articulate his point of view, while forceful, was never arrogant, and very seldom would he lose his cool. Not a characteristic of too many politicians. When he ran in 2003 for the Assembly in East Antrim it was in many ways a cold house for George Dawson. He was not welcomed with open arms, yet to his credit, he turned round the animosity and hostility to the extent, that the initial lack of warmth, gave way to political global warming, when in 2007 the temperature rose to the level he almost got in on the first count.
Yet it was in the campaign that George again became ill, yet typical George, he refused to take it easy, not willing to ask others to knock doors for him, if he would not do it himself. His constituency work was second to none, he was like "a dog with a bone," when he got hold of a problem.
The people talked about him as a lovely man. He was tireless and efficient, smart in dress, carried himself well - just one nice person. George never sought to offend, or take offence. As a politician, the prize of office was secondary to the work, which had to be done. Who received the praise was not on his agenda. He was a team player, willing to play second fiddle well, and to use his undoubted skills for the greater good.
George was not out to undermine but rather under gird and support. Courage to express his beliefs and engage with those who differed was his pattern. He never ran to hide or conceal himself; he was at all times transparent.
In George's company, everyone felt important, that's how he made you feel. Your position did not influence George; he could make you feel big in a crowd. He worked for many years in the textile industry and for the past ten he was Director of Arena Network N.I., which is the environmental arm of Business in the community. In this role he showed Visionary leadership with innovative ideas. He and his team helped businesses to act responsibly toward the environment debating for clear, environmental management and sustainability. I think this was the only part of George which you could say was green!
At work, he was involved in the air we breathe, driving on optimistically, with much humour in his approach. Full of passion and great determination, believing businesses could be convinced to change their ways and through positive action ensuring our quality of life would be enhanced.
George was also the treasurer and council member of the Evangelical Protestant Society, and a founder member of the Caleb Foundation, an evangelical Protestant organisation which sought to counteract some of the views held by other groups and also to put pressure on the BBC to give equal air time to true evangelicals. George was the ideal choice as Chairman.
He became a well-known voice on Sunday sequence, how well he handled himself in many debates when other contributors were hostile to his point of view. Over the years, he gained the respect of the programme producers. He may not have converted them to his beliefs. In that forum we don't expect miracles! But he certainly earned the right to be heard, and he was appreciated.
His coolness and level head, plus his knowledge of the subject to hand not forgetting that uncanny ability not to be side tracked from the main issue of debate, except when he himself chose to throw a spanner in the works of some ecumenical and liberal cesspool, always gave him the edge over his opponents. He never flinched. Yes this very nice man was as determined as the next, and as caustic as the occasion demanded.
It was his focus, which would win the day. Others may have been opposed, but George Dawson was made for the lion's den. He made an outstanding contribution to the work of Caleb and the EPS. Every member held George with the highest respect. He was to us, and many others, our motivator.
In closing, it was as a Christian that I will best remember him. He was absolutely convinced as a Christian that he lived his life in the footsteps ordained by the providence of a loving God, whose will was perfect. Acknowledging this, he took great care to walk worthy of his Saviour.
George was a good preacher, but his confidence in God affected not only his preaching but also his living and eventually his dying. He found security and comfort from knowing that God was leading and directing every aspect of his life. Yes, even when lying in the City hospital, with death looking him in the face, he still testified to the hand of God over-shading all that was happening.
I remember him say "Eric He knows best." George's faith was not an emotional, sentimental, flaky experience; no, he knew his God. On Monday past, George did not die before his time; rather God took him, at His appointed hour. He like the first Christian martyr Stephen, he had run the full distance!
For him it was a Race well Run, a Faith well Kept, a Fight well Fought. George Dawson lived well but also died well.
Others have spoken to me about George, but what about the lady who for the past seventeen years knew him best. It's in our home where the real man shines through. In talking with Vi, yesterday she spoke of the great privilege she felt in being married to George, she would want you to know that she thanked God for him, and the love he had shown to her and the care and attention as a family, she and the girls had so deeply enjoyed. Vi, Emma & Sara, God bless you.
He was a good husband, a loving father, a true brother to Fergus, and a great friend to us all. Thank you George.
You have arrived safe home, because on Monday you were packed and ready to go - from the time you accepted Christ as your Saviour. See you in the morning.