I heard with some shock of the sudden death of the Limavady solicitor David Brewster. I hesitate to call him a friend, since most of our contact over the years from the very earliest of Slugger days was by phone, but with me he was always warm, erudite, scrupulously honest and uncommonly thoughtful. And as much a friend as it is possible to be with one so distant.
He had been a supporter of David Trimble in his early days as leader, but parted with him over the terms of the Belfast Agreement. Who knows, if Willie Ross had stepped down when his party colleagues had expected him to, then David might have become the Ulster Unionist MP for East Londonderry.
Although he eventually did join the DUP it was almost certainly a point of last resort. Folks outside unionism find it hard to understand the cultural differences between the two parties, but despite the hard line he took on the Belfast Agreement, David genuinely had problems with the sectarian rabble rousing of the early days of the older Paisley.
A member of several loyal orders I can say with hand on heart that in the long time in which I corresponded with David, I never found there to be a single sectarian bone in his body. His own deep sense of humour (and corresponding sense of the ridiculous) would never have allowed him to fall into that trap.
There are several examples of that humour. He levelled with me after several years of using it that it was he who commented on Slugger under the nom de guerre, Darth Rumsfeld. I cannot imagine anyone but David coming up with such a great self parodying moniker for someone with a reputation for being unreservedly right wing.
On the constitutional issue he was tough, unsentimental and uncompromising. He saw the loyal orders as essential social capital needed for the good working of unionist politics in rural Ulster (and before anyone objects, David was a proper 9 county Ulsterman who’s passionate sensibilities stretched to the small Protestant enclaves of west Cork).
His sporting passion was Limavady Utd and Northern Ireland. He also liked Torino and the underdogs of Madrid, Athletico. In almost any fight he’d 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’s a custody sergeant would have had the thick end of his lawyerly tongue.
Peter Brown (another old lag of the Slugger comment zone) 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 might say notorious which is something he would have been proud of!) in legal circles, unionism, the loyal orders, NI football and in Limavady but probably most famous beyond Limavady for arguably the funniest footballing story I have ever heard and I had the privilege of knowing the man behind it. If one story could encapsulate everything about David in one event this was it – I still can’t help but smirk every time Carlos Tevez is mentioned on TV.
His friend Cllr Aaron Callan (now leader 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. Whilst he could be, to use the Ulster Scots word, thran and straight talking, he would always do it with good humour, sharp wit and would disagree with respect. David had an eye for cutting through problems with common sense and more importantly with ideas on how to fix them.
David was a thinker, unionist, historian, orangeman, presbyterian, writer, organiser, orator, solicitor, leader and most importantly a proud Limavady man. He was also a good friend. He is a tremendous loss to all the organisations that he was a member of and to the community of Limavady.
Go lightly my old thran, presbyterian and utterly delightful friend…
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty