“I am able to say that I was proud of what I was – a sailor”
John was living for some time in the St. Vincent de Paul Hostel for Homeless Men in Back Lane, Dublin. He was born in Derry in 1928 and had been a sailor in his early days. I became involved with him when he was in Back Lane. He often came to weekly Mass.
He was a very private person and never seemed to speak about his own family in Derry. When he became ill he was transferred to Moyglare Nursing Home, Maynooth and remained there for five years until his final days in Blanchardstown Hospital. During all those years I frequently visited John and was aware that I was his only visitor – no family seemed to be around. John was greatly loved in Moyglare Home and when he eventually died in January this year a great attempt was made to locate any known relatives. The message was sent through news outlets, social media, local clubs and the Parish – but no relatives were found. Resulting from this, many of the local Maynooth people wanted to make John’s funeral a momentous event. The funeral undertakers contacted the Parish Funeral Group, who in turn contacted musicians, choir and parishioners.
On the 16th February John’s funeral took place in St. Mary’s Parish, Maynooth, to a packed church. Because John had been a sailor, the Defence Force Veterans escorted his body into the church – to lusty singing from the choir and congregation. Fr. Rigney, Parish Priest, said in his eulogy:
“He was very much a man who would keep to himself. He had a great interest in politics, a great interest in sport, I am sure he loved Derry, Derry Foot¬ball team, and also the Irish Republic soccer team. He also had a great interest in the English Premiership and also Barcelona.”
The local newspaper carried a lovely account of this special funeral. The following is taken from that article:
Fr Rigney said that John was very much at peace, happy and contented during his five years in the nursing home in Maynooth, and is now safe in the palm of God’s hand. It was clear that everyone at the Mass felt a connection to the man they had never known, as hundreds came together to celebrate his life.
After Communion, ‘The Voyage’ by Christy Moore was sung, reflecting John’s life as a sailor, and it was Danny Boy which John left the church to, in remembrance of his home county.
An unprecedented crowd gathered at the graveyard, and although a fierce wind blew, a particularly poignant ending to the service came about when the Defence Force Veterans performed the Last Post in his honour.
I felt it such an honour to be part of this moving ceremony for John. I knew he had been so happy with the care he received in Back Lane Hostel, Moyglare Nursing Home and eventually Blanchardstown Hospital. He was always treated with the utmost respect and had enjoyed a lovely private room in Moyglare for five years, which he greatly appreciated.
May his wonderful soul rest in perfect peace.
Sr. Kathleen Mullin RSC