Barry Egan: The Corrs’ hero Gerry finally reunites with their mother Jean
Barry Egan recalls a memorable afternoon with Gerry Corr - who died last Thursday aged 82 - at the Corrs’ family home in Dundalk in 2002.
Paul Durcan was on the radio; the kettle on. It was a Spring afternoon in 2002 - the sun streaming in through the windows of the Corrs’ family home in Ard Easmuinn, Dundalk.
With his distinguished beard, and cool glasses, Gerry Corr looked like a hipster version of Lech Walensa, the leader of Solidarity in Poland.
A smile never far from his face, he doled out the ham sandwiches to his son and their guest. The stories were doled out in equal abundance, too, as was the charm. . .
"As a child Jim suffered from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Syndrome or, more precisely, Jean and I suffered from it!" Gerry joked.
"Long before the condition was diagnosed, we got him this speed-walk apparatus to get him up off his belly," he laughed, adding that not long afterwards young Jim Corr in his speed-walker broke "nine pieces" of Waterford Glass one evening.
Accepting defeat, Gerry turned to the child's mother Jean and said with a smile: "Give him the last piece - get it over with!"
Gerry then recalled with fondness in the summer of 1965 being at the top of "a double-extension ladder, painting an upstairs window". A vigilant neighbour suddenly apprised him of the presence of his year-old son Jim on a rung just below him.
"I didn't panic," Gerry remembered. "I stretched down my hand and he gave me his hand, like that was what he was there for to give me a hand."
Last Thursday Gerry Corr perhaps reached him his hand to Jean in heaven like that was what she was there for.
He died, 82, peacefully in the Mater Hospital in Dublin. Gerry lost his beloved wife on November 24 1999, when she passed away in the middle of the middle in a hospital in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, where she succumbed, tragically young at the age of 57, to a rare lung condition.
You can only imagine how Gerry felt to have had to live all those years without his precious Jean. Asked how her father has been getting on since Jean died, Sharon Corr told me before Christmas in an interview for the Sunday Independent: " My father has suffered a lot. And I think he is incredible. He is very brave. My father is my hero."
The hero of all the Corrs, Gerry was a quietly spiritual and loving man who connected his kids not only to him but to also one another.
He said that day in 2002 that he had no doubt whatsoever that he would meet his darling wife again in Heaven. Andrea Corr echoed this sentiment when she sang on The Corrs’ 2002 song No More Cry: "One day soon we'll meet again/I wanna feel just like before/ Before the rain came in my door/ Shook me up, turned me around/ Made me cry 'til I would drown.”
Gerry told me that his faith was simple. "All faith is simple, though I like to think that my intellect is involved nowadays," he said.
You could argue that it was Gerry’s belief in the divine present in all human beings that made him speak out, as he told me, in support of a centre for travellers in Dundalk in the late Sixties. He laughed that he was even called "The Weirdy Beardy" in a local newspaper for his unpopular stance.
"The concept was an Habilitation Centre to help travellers transfer from a life in the ditch to a house in the settled community,” Gerry explained. “Sadly, the nimby (an acronym for the phrase, Not In My Back Yard) factor triggered in, like elsewhere in Ireland," he said, stressing that what he did in 1968 was no big deal. (The traveller story, Jim said, showed just how his dad couldn't help but "try to stand up for a wronged and victimised minority".)
Was Jean was attracted to his idealism?
"I think my idealism, if that's the word, was a pain in the neck to Jean," Gerry laughed. "Jean was a pragmatist. She loved the earth, loved life, loved people, and loved me."
"From the first time I met her, I loved her speaking voice," Gerry told me in 2002. "Later, when I heard her sing, my future was sealed! Happily, she liked me too."
I asked him what did Jean sing.
"It was an Irish song called Mo Shean Dun na Gall which she had learned at school in her native Donegal. Jean's is the voice of the Corrs," he siad of the group that went on to conquer the world. (Jean and Gerry of course had their own semi-professional band, Sound Affair, that would have had a huge influence of their kids’ own musical development.)
Jean and Gerry were married on married on October 3, 1963 in St Patrick's Cathedral, Dundalk, having met at a dance in the Pavilion ballroom in Blackrock, Dundalk in 1962. Gerry even immortalised the meeting in verse, which he entitled Pavilion 62:
‘Did angels convene
To bring me to Jean
Of wraparound eyes
In passion of pink
We dance for ever.’
You don’t have to have a faith to believe that Gerry and Jean are now dancing forever in some celestial ballroom of romance.