The Reverend Michael Houston

June has been kind enough to share with us this wonderful obituary she wrote for her husband, in which she details his rich and varied life and talks fondly of their time at St. Andrew’s. 

“Michael was born in Belfast, just off the Sandown Road.  His parents lived next door to their paternal grandparents and Michael (as the first born grandson) had to be brought in every few days to be with them, all dressed up, of course.  

Mum and Dad Houston with Michael and Derek moved then to Londonderry where Dad Houston was in charge of the Transport (buses and trains) and Hinton Park,  Also it was where Derek was brought up (trains were his thing) and eventually entered Camphill Glencraig in 1957.  Michael’s father and he were choristers in Derry Cathedral so Church and Choral Music was very important to them both.  Michael eventually became Head Boy of the choir there and also played the Leading “Lady” in the Gilbert and Sullivan events in Foyle College where he was educated.  He tells the story of being chased from the Gents by a couple of sailors who thought they were girls, as they were wearing long crinoline skirts.
Michael entered the garment industry in Londonderry as a young teenager to learn the ropes and it was there that he found his love of clothes, particularly shirts, and knew every type of shirt, collar, etc. etc.  He still, to this day, loved and commented on, the clothes people wore and how well, or otherwise, they were made!!!
He worked for a number of shirt companies, even going on a training course for three months to Sweden to study.  During that time he sang in a number of choirs, and went to a teacher in St. Paul’s. As a Counter Tenor he even entered the Kathleen Ferrier competition one year, but was unsuccessful there.  
Michael returned to N. Ireland in late sixties and soon joined the group that June sang in called The Cathedral Concert, led by Dr, Harry Grindle.  They soon became an “item”  After a year or so they became engaged in 1969.  He had moved about in various parts of the shirt industry by then and came to Raelbrook in the Manchester area.  
June and he married on 29th June 1970 and moved over to Bramhall, in Cheshire.  They joined the Halle Choir while they lived there, but when Michael moved to a Factory in Rainhill in Liverpool, that stopped.  He, by then, managed the factory of many hundreds of girls who needed a tough man to keep them in check.  He remembers sending out staff to haul some of the girls out of their beds, when they did not come in on a Monday.  Eventually they all respected him and would have done anything for him.  He remembered all their names, and would stand at the door sometimes as they were going out and would be able to name every one of them.
They returned to N.I. in late September 1974, as Michael’s father was ill and had lost part of his leg.  His mother needed support there and also with Derek, who was by now in Camphill Community Mourne Grange.  Michael worked for Debretta who had factories in Newtownards, Bangor and Portaferry.  He soon became M.D. of the three and had to continuously go to the head office of Marks and Spencer in London whom they supplied.  By 1980 he left, and we set up our own manufacturing business called Classic Fashions, making outfits for ladies and also Workwear for Lilliput Laundry.  This worked with us for nearly 10 years, but eventually the business closed.
We were fortunate then to move to a rented bungalow in the grounds of Mount Stewart where we spent 6 happy years, with Michael studying at a University Course for Managing Change where he was sent into different environments to see how he could work with them.  Some did, and of course, some he did not like, so he left!  Michael always spoke his mind, and if he did not like what he saw, he spoke out!!!   Also, in living in Mount Stewart he had time to think and found that he wanted to study the Ministry. To this end he was sent to Bishop Gordon McMullan of Down and Dromore, who asked him amongst other questions “What do you think you can do for the Ministry”  His reply must have worked, as he then found himself, at his request, studying to be a Non Stipendary Minister, completing many, many essays to be judged on, and going down to Dublin once a month as well.  In the meantime he had also become M.D. of The Ulster Sheltered Employment for the disabled and the blind which he really loved.  He stayed there for a few years, but was finally persuaded to move to Camphill Communities in N. I. Where he became the Facilitator for the communities, to help build various children and adult houses.  June had been working there since 1991 and they ended up in the same office building.  His job moved on to Fundraiser which he loved.
When he became a Deacon in 1995 he was sent to Bangor Abbey, under Dean Hammy. Leckey who was a tough taskmaster, but he learnt the ropes and they became a life long friend of Hammie and Ellie.  Michael moved on to Donaghadee, still on a learning curve. Under Rev. Leslie Stevenson who became a great friend and colleague.  He loved the parish and the people, only leaving when he was appointed as a Minister to Portaferry where there was lots of work to do to bring it up to speed.  With much help and encouragement he persuaded them to build a hall (he found the funds for this from many sources) and other things which brought the congregation back to life.  Michael was in his element and loved it all, and the people who had become friends and still are to this day.  
After eight years there, in 2007 when they were retiring from Camphill at age 66 they wondered what they would do next.  At a suggestion of June’s they contacted the International Church body of the Church in England and discovered that there were three parishes who needed a minister.  One was in the Falklands, one was in the Hague, and one was in North Cyprus.  Needless to say, we choose Cyprus, and duly applied on line for the position of Chaplain for three years in Kyrenia in North Cyprus.  Much to our surprise, after being sent out there for an interview with two others applicants, we received word that we had been successful.  We were absolutely astounded as we really did not think it would happen.  We also put in place a plan that June would come home every two months to take Derek home for a week.  She clocked up 17 return trips there and back, also bringing him out to Cyprus for Christmas every year for two weeks.  The congregation loved him.
We left Camphill in July of 2007 and headed out to North Cyprus in the September.  We lived there in a lovely old Cyprus type house which had its own little chapel and plenty of grounds around it.  We can honestly say it was the best decision we had ever made, as we loved and supported all the people and led the ministry in St. Andrew’s which was open to all religions.  Lifelong friends were made and still are today. Our time was three years there and we returned to N.I. in October 2010 where Michael then ended up as Minister in Charge of Kilclief and Ballyculter (where we are now)   Again, many, many friendships have been made and continued into our final retirement during Covid in 2020 when we though it was time to retire. But we still kept in touch with them.
It is very fitting that Michael returns today to his final resting place here in Ballyculter amongst so many past and present friends.”