Saturday 10 December 2016

Grief etched on survivors' faces

Mourners remember honest, kind father

Published 15/02/2011 | 05:00

Cork air-crash survivors Donal Walsh (left) and Lawrence Wilson (right) outside the church after the funeral Mass of Brendan McAleese
Cork air-crash survivors Donal Walsh (left) and Lawrence Wilson (right) outside the church after the funeral Mass of Brendan McAleese

THEY arrived separately but left together, two men sharing a burden of mingled relief and sorrow that others had not been as lucky as they had.

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Donal Walsh (22), from Waterford, and Lawrence Wilson (53), from Co Antrim, who both walked away alive from the Cork air crash, met yesterday for the first time since leaving hospital. They were at the funeral of one of the six men who lost their lives.

To the casual observer, they were just two faces in the crowd of mourners outside St McNissius Church in Tannaghmore, Co Antrim, following the funeral of Brendan McAleese (39).

Mr Wilson was the first to arrive, sombre-faced, with his wife May, shaking the hands of a few members of the community. Mr Walsh arrived a short while later, looking distraught.

After the funeral, they met outside the church gates, both men ashen-faced. Mr Walsh exhaled forcefully, greatly shaken by the grief of the occasion.

They talked for a moment in hushed tones and then walked up the road together with their heads bowed, deep in private conversation.

Lament

A large crowd of mourners had gathered for the funeral of the father of two, who was remembered yesterday as a popular and kind man who "hadn't a selfish bone in his body".

The North's Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness was there, as were President Mary McAleese and her husband Dr Martin McAleese -- a first cousin of the deceased.

To the beautiful lament of the harp, the funeral cortege came into view, the hearse topped with colourful flowers of red, orange and yellow first; while behind, mourners carried the coffin the short distance from the McAleeses home to the church where Brendan and his family had attended Mass every Sunday.

Walking behind and in matching red floral coats, Brendan's two daughters Ava (5) and Erin (3) clutched the hand of their mother Anne-Marie.

Their faces were bewildered and Anne-Marie, who with Brendan had only recently announced a new pregnancy, seemed preoccupied with making sure they were coping.

Mr McAleese's elderly mother, Mary, sister Denise and brother Joseph were present.

Presiding over the funeral, Canon Malachy Murphy, with Bishop of Down and Connor Noel Treanor, reminded mourners the funeral of another of the air crash victims, Pat Cullinan, was also taking place that day, and that Mr Cullinan's aunt live in Tannaghmore.

He welcomed the two men who had survived the crash and told mourners that Brendan had lived a short life but had received many graces.

He described the sudden death of a loved one, saying: "One minute the sun is shining and everyone is smiling. Without the slightest warning, we are plunged into darkness."

Fr Murphy said Brendan was first and foremost a family man.

"He adored Anne-Marie, Ava and Erin. All his energies were geared to providing for them. He had a warm personality, honest and generous. He looked out for others," he said.

He described Brendan as a very popular man who was the heart and soul of any gathering.

As the coffin left the church for burial at Belmont cemetery, little Ava wept in her uncle's arms and mourners followed sorrowfully behind.

Irish Independent

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