Clergy and parishioners have paid tribute to a “wonderful” Fermanagh minister Rev Canon Mark Watson after his ‘untimely’ death.
It is understood that Canon Watson, who had been dealing with a number of health issues, died at home on Monday morning. He is survived by his wife Rhona and sons Peter and Samuel.
In a statement, Clogher Diocese said that “the bishop and clergy of the diocese of Clogher wish to record our deepest sympathy and sadness following the unexpected death of our esteemed colleague, Revd Canon Mark Watson, Rector of Maguiresbridge and Derrybrusk parishes”.
It added: “Our prayers and thoughts are foremost with his family and we particularly remember his wife, Rhona and sons, Peter and Samuel and the whole family circle at this time.
“Canon Watson was a dedicated and faithful pastor and will be greatly missed by his parishioners. We ask everyone to remember Canon Watson’s family in their prayers as the family come to terms with his sudden and untimely death.”
Soon after his death the PSNI said they were “at the scene of the sudden death of a man in the Drumgoon Road area of Maguiresbridge”. A post-mortem is to take place to determine the cause of death.
Many people offered their condolences on social media. Tracey Keaney described him “a wonderful man” while Joan Nelson said that “we will remember Mark as a faithful past rector and personal friend”.
Wendy Kerr added that he was “a wonderful minister and friend to many”.
Former Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Tom Elliott said the rector had been a friend for over 20 years.
“I knew Mark very well, he was a long time friend,” he said.
He knew him initially through the loyal orders, where Canon Watson was county grand chaplain of the Royal Black Institution and deputy chaplain of the County Grand Orange Lodge.
“He was a very friendly, easy going man and very down to the earth, both him and his family. You could go into their home and it was just like any other home and they came into yours just in the same way. He had a very dry sense of humour and was generally very well liked and easy to get on with.”
The rector was originally from Donegal but was brought up in Omagh, he added.
“He had a holiday home in Donegal. His two favourite pastimes were boating and fishing.”
The Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland said it was “saddened” to learn of the passing of the past county grand chaplain and offered its deepest sympathies to his family circle.
The Very Rev Kenneth Hall, Dean of St Macartin’s Cathedral in Enniskillen said he was “deeply saddened at the tragic news” and assured the family of his prayers.
Following his ordination Canon Watson served as a curate in the Grouped Parishes of Ballymoney, Finvoy and Rasharkin in the Diocese of Connor between 1995-1998.
He later served as rector of Brackaville, Donaghendry and Ballyclog (Coalisland) in Armagh Diocese between 1998-2001.
In 2001, he was appointed rector of Killesher (Florencecourt) in Fermanagh in the Diocese of Kilmore, a position he held until being appointed rector of Trory and Killadeas in Clogher Diocese in 2006.
He was instituted to the Grouped Parishes of Maguiresbridge and Derrybrusk, also in Clogher Diocese, in January 2018.