Environmental lobbyist who honoured WWII air crash pilots

Obituary: Garry Pentland 1931-2013

Garry Pentland: active supporter of the Irish language

Garry Pentland: active supporter of the Irish language


Tyrone man Garry Pentland, who has died aged 82, was an environmental campaigner, history enthusiast, active supporter of the Irish language, animal welfare activist and erector of plaques commemorating crashed second World War pilots – and many other things as well. Pentland was unafraid to be his own man, in all matters. A friend’s son reported: “Garry Pentland drives so slowly even a tractor passed us.”

He was a quiet and humble man, though of very strong opinions, which usually challenged the North’s orthodoxies. Thus he knew no boundaries in his friendships.

He has left a physical legacy in the plaques commemorating Allied aircrew killed after crashing in the North and in Donegal. He was central to researching the location of these crashes, and tracing the families of the victims. Through this, some Canadian and American families became friends.

He was passionate about environmental issues. For many years, he was involved in a campaign against a proposed gold mine outside his home village of Gortin. Linked to this, he promoted nature conservation.

He wanted to restore the Irish oak, and grew saplings, which he planted out. He was committed to animal welfare, and would regularly rescue wounded animals and birds to nurse them back to health. The killing of badgers in particular angered him. He was enthusiastic about Irish history, and particularly that of his home area. That was linked to enthusiasm for the Irish language, traditional music, and Irish culture.

Though unable to master the language himself, despite many attempts, he helped preserve the memory of the Tyrone Gaeltacht, and provided invaluable assistance to researchers.

George Gardiner (Garry) Pentland was born in 1931 in Gortin to George Gardiner Pentland snr and his wife Annie Edith (née Armstrong). His father owned the village garage.

He was educated at Beltrim primary school. At 14 he went to Belfast Technical College to study mechanical engineering. The rest of the class were four or five years older. Despite the age gap he was one of the top students, and anxious to continue his studies. Unfortunately, his father brought him home to work in the garage. He was a highly skilled mechanic throughout his working life, but always conscious that his abilities lay elsewhere.

He was predeceased by his wife, Edith, and sister Georgina. He is survived by his daughter Jane, son Ian, daughter-in-law Karen, sister Gladys, brother Sydney, and grandchildren.