Great sadness at untimely death of well-known Donegal businessman

"A hard worker with an entrepreneurial spirit who was also capable of great kindness"

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News of Alistair's McClay's untimely death was met with much shock and sadness

News of the death of Donegal businessman Alistair McClay has been met with much shock and sadness. 

Mr McClay passed away on Friday, aged just 50. He was best known to many people for running the successful Starcrest Seafoods business for many years, with 28 vans on the road and a large team of employees at the time of his death.

Mr McClay’s funeral service took place in Laghey Parish Church on Sunday at 2pm.

His brother Rt Revd David McClay, Bishop of Down and Dromore spoke of the great love that Mr McClay had for his family, especially his children.

He told mourners gathered and those watching via a livestream: “I tried to think what Alistair might want to say to us in this moment.

“He would say to all of us, ‘Be kind to each other.’

“He would say secondly, ‘Give everything you put your hand to your very best. 

“He would say, ‘Don’t let my going spoil your future.’

“And he would say, ‘I love you all.’”

Bishop McClay read messages from Mr McClay’s daughter Kirsty who is in Australia, and from staff at Starcrest Seafoods.

He also thanked everyone for the messages of support received by the family.

Archdeacon Ven David Huss recalled Mr McClay as energetic and a hard worker with an entrepreneurial spirit, but who was also capable of great kindness and love for his family.

He expressed his condolences to Mr McClay’s family and friends, saying: “To everyone who knew him the news came as a huge shock and to you, it has come as a deep personal loss.

"Our prayers are with you.”

Early Life

Ven Huss said that Mr McClay had been born in 1970, the youngest of four siblings. He attended Robertston School in Ballintra, receiving his secondary education at the Royal and Prior in Raphoe.

“After school, Alistair’s first employment was in Foodland,” said Ven Huss. “He did deliveries for the cash and carry.

“It was then at the age of 18 or 19 that he had the idea of working for himself and decided to start a business selling fish.

“He got a van and off he went. Not one to be told that because he knew nothing about fish, he couldn’t do it; not one to be told that because he was young, he couldn’t do it, or because that hadn’t been the family business that he couldn’t do it -  Alistair did it.

“There were long hours and tough times but he carried on.”

Mr McClay’s business went from strength to strength, making him a significant employer in the area. 

Ven Huss told mourners that he had helped many people get started in employment, had given them a chance and had supported them quietly when needed.

Indeed, he said, there were many such acts of kindness carried out quietly and privately that will never be known.

Huge Loss

“When someone with so much energy and strength and stamina leaves the seam then it leaves a huge gap, a huge loss,” said Ven Huss.

He assured the bereaved family that their fellow parishioners in Laghey and in the Donegal Group of Parishes were there for them at this difficult time, despite people not being able to attend the funeral in person due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Mr McClay was laid to rest in the adjoining churchyard following Sunday’s service. 

He is survived by his partner Tracey and children Amy and Alex; his daughters Kirsty and Ally, son Brandon and their mother Alma; his mother Kathleen; brothers Geoffrey and Bishop David; sister Jennifer; sisters-in-law Hilary and Jennifer and a wide circle of family and friends.

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