Norman Lynas, chairman of Lynas Food Service, has passed away aged 77, following a short battle with illness.
Mr Lynas, who was awarded the OBE in 2017 for services to business, the community and charity, died peacefully on Saturday surrounded by his family. He had endured a short battle with a stroke followed by the discovery of a brain tumour.
Lynas Food Service, which is headquartered in Coleraine, employs around 560 people and serves customers across the island of Ireland and in Scotland.
Norman Lynas became involved in the family business – a fishmonger’s shop in Brooke Street – in the late 1950s after his father, Bobbie, suffered a heart attack. He was aged just 16 at the time but the business prospered. Its best-selling items were its fishcakes, made at home by Bobbie’s wife.
Those seminal days in the Brooke Street shop served to set in place an entrepreneurial ethos that has survived until today, passed through Bobbie to his son, Norman and his grandson, Andrew, now managing director of the company.
Ignoring the advice of his father, Norman took the business on from fresh fish to selling frozen food in the early 1970s. That decision enabled Norman to be at the forefront of the frozen food revolution that was happening in Northern Ireland and he grew the business steadily, even during difficult times. In 1991, Norman moved the business to Loughanhill Industrial Estate in Coleraine where it remains to this day.
Andrew Lynas joined his father in the business in 2004 as it expanded into butchery through its Causeway Prime brand as well as the ambient and non-food categories.
In more recent times, Lynas has expanded further, opening its own chain of Food Outlet stores to serve the general public. Norman was pivotal in the continued growth of the business throughout, first as the main driver and latterly, as a strong support for Andrew and the leadership team as they pushed the business forward.
In a moving tribute to his father, posted on the company website, Andrew Lynas describes Norman as a man of ‘vision, guts and tenacity’.
‘Dad was a salesperson at heart, he loved getting that extra box into the call. He loved his customers, enjoyed calling on them for a cup of tea or seeing them at the different food shows and ensuring that their business was thriving,’ said Andrew. ‘From schools, hospitals, chip shops to coffee shops, he loved “serving the caterer”.’
Andrew also mentioned Norman’s abiding love for the Coleraine region. Norman was involved in the local Enterprise Agency and set up a local ‘Dragon’s Den’ initiative in the teeth of a bitter recession in 2008.
‘He was a man who loved people and interacting with them, even at the end of his life he wanted to be around people,’ said Andrew.
Norman Lynas was also a committed Christian who had given his life to God at the age of just 13. He was a member of the congregation and an elder at Portstewart Baptist Church.
In 1997, he formed a youth discipleship organisation called Exodus which Andrew Lynas describes as the ‘greatest lasting legacy’ of Norman and his wife, Lynda.
‘Committed to seeing young people boldly following Jesus and becoming lifelong disciple-makers, Exodus made them come alive and they served every summer, encouraging young people,’ Andrew recalls.
In a poignant tribute to his father, Andrew signs off his obituary with the comment, ‘To a life well-lived and to my hero’.
Among the tributes paid to Norman since his passing is one from his son, Peter, director of the Evangelical Alliance who said his father ‘leaves a living legacy in the many lives he touched and the impact he had for Jesus and the kingdom’.
The Alliance itself said that it was standing in solidarity with Peter and the Lynas family following Norman’s passing:
‘So many of you will have known and been blessed by Norman. We thank the Lord for his life and his legacy to the Church and wider society,’ it added.
A service of thanksgiving for the life of Norman Lynas is to be held at Portstewart Baptist Church this Wednesday, November 27.