It was with some shock that I heard of the sudden death of Limavady attorney David Brewster. I hesitate to call him a friend as most of our contact over the years has been by phone from the earliest Slugger days, but with me he has always been warm, learned, scrupulously honest, and unusually thoughtful. And as much a friend as it is possible to be with someone so distant.
He had been a supporter of David Trimble in his early days as a leader but had broken up with him on the terms of the Belfast Accords. Who knows, if Willie Ross had resigned when his party colleagues expected, David might have become the Ulster Unionist MP for East Londonderry.
Although he eventually joined the DUP, this was almost certainly the last resort. People outside of trade unions find it difficult to understand the cultural differences between the two parties, but despite the tough line he took on the Belfast Accord, David really had problems with the sectarian rabble of the elderly paisley’s early days .
As a member of several loyal orders, I can hand in hand say that in the long time I corresponded with David, I have never found a single sectarian bone in his body. His own deep sense of humor (and a corresponding sense of the ridiculous) would never have allowed him to fall into this trap.
There are several examples of this humor. After using it for several years, he agreed with me that he was commenting on Slugger under the Nom de Guerre Darth Rumsfeld. I can’t imagine anyone except David who came up with such a great, self-parodying nickname for someone with a reputation for being unreservedly right-wing.
On the constitutional question he was tough, unsentimental and uncompromising. He saw the Loyal Orders as essential social capital needed for the good functioning of union politics in rural Ulster (and before anyone minds it, David was a proper Ulsterman from 9 counties, whose passionate sensitivity was to the small Protestant enclaves from West Cork).
His sporting passion was Limavady Utd and Northern Ireland. He also liked Turin and Madrid’s outsider, Athletico. In almost any fight, he would side with the underdog and fight like hell for them. He believed in civil rights, not just as an abstract principle, but in practice. Many, a custody sergeant, would have had the thick end of his legal language.
Peter Brown (another old Slugger comment zone delay) posted this wonderful story on his Facebook page:
(I) was shocked to hear about the untimely and sudden death of David Brewster this morning – well known (some say infamous what he would have been proud of!) In legal circles, union movement, loyal orders, NI football and in Limavady, but probably best known outside of Limavady for arguably the funniest football story I’ve ever heard, and I had the privilege of knowing the man behind it. If a story could sum up everything about David in one event, this was it – I still can’t help but grin every time Carlos Tevez is mentioned on TV.
His friend Cllr Aaron Callan (now chairman of the Causeway and Glens Council) wrote to Slugger saying:
How to sum up the life of a man who had so many talents and interests. While he could be, to use the Ulster Scots word, he would always do it in a good mood, sharp mind, and would disagree with respect. David had an eye for solving problems with common sense and, most importantly, with ideas on how to fix those problems.
David was a thinker, trade unionist, historian, orangeman, Presbyterian, writer, organizer, public speaker, lawyer, leader, and most importantly, a proud Limavady man. He was a good friend too. He is a tremendous loss to all the organizations in which he was a member and to the Limavady community.
Go easy, my old Thran, Presbyterian and utterly delightful friend …
“2010-11-28 15.04.34” from john.purvis is licensed under CC BY
Mick is the founding editor of Slugger. He has written articles on the impact of the internet on politics and the media and is a regular guest and speaker across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty