Cruel end to what should have been a magical year
DERRY and Sallyanne Clarke were, justifiably, so proud of their son Andrew.
And their parental pride shone brilliantly to the very end yesterday when, through the tears, they had to share the most tragic news of his untimely death with their extended circle of family and friends.
"Our darling, wonderful son Andrew has passed on. We are very proud to say that Andrew is donating his heart, lungs, liver and both kidneys to help others," they said.
It was unusual to have a conversation with either Derry or Sallyanne on the phone, or at their restaurant, without them referring to one of their children or a family-related matter.
They were like four peas in a pod, the tightest of family units, sharing each others' interests, happy relaxing at home in Saggart together as Derry carved out some down-time from work or chilling out at their mobile home in Courtown, Co Wexford.
Andrew's death is all the more shocking and cruel because it came on the last day of an otherwise golden year for the Clarkes.
For Derry, Sallyanne and their children, Sarah May (22) and Andrew, 2012 was to have been such a magical year.
Last New Year's Eve, they toasted the arrival of the year that marked the 23rd anniversary in July of the opening of their Michelin star restaurant, L'Ecrivain on Baggot Street.
Then the couple toasted their 25th wedding anniversary in October and, in between, on September 21, Sallyanne celebrated her 50th birthday.
All the personal milestones were marked with friends, and, in particular, their two children. The last 12 months were littered with fun-filled nights at the restaurant, which Dubliners Derry and Sallyanne built up from nothing, and there were cosier nights at home in Saggart en famille, as they acknowledged the good fortunes of the past and looked forward eagerly to the future.
Sarah May, the marketing graduate, was off to Australia to work and Andrew, "the petrolhead" as his mother called him, was a talented sports driver and had the rest of his exciting transition year at Clongowes Wood College to look forward to.
But fate was cruel and just as loyal customers were preparing to arrive at L'Ecrivain to celebrate New Year's Eve, the Clarkes were sending out the kind of message that every parent dreads.
Sallyanne was the proudest of mums, always happy to be behind the wheel of mum's taxi. Bad knee or not, post-operation or not, she used to drive the young Andrew to school and left after lunch service, to whisk him wherever he needed to be.
Derry could park the heat of a Michelin-star restaurant when he got down to his boat and could go out fishing with Andrew.
Derry is unusual among Michelin-star chefs. He has none of the bad temper and ego that many of his peers exudes. He is a total gentleman and adored by his culinary colleagues who are heartbroken for himself and Sallyanne.
They welcomed international celebrities to their restaurant but they were never boastful and you'd have to prod them to hear who had been in recently.
It breaks my heart to think what they are going through.
Good, honest-to-God people, a family who adored each other but whose world has been ripped apart.
May Andrew Clarke rest in peace.