'Heartbreak and desolation' as father and son are laid to rest
A BROKEN community gathered in grief yesterday to say farewell to a popular father and son and to pray for the women who were left behind.
John (55) and Sean (24) Gallagher were laid to rest following a moving Requiem Mass attended by upwards of 1,200 people in Ramelton, Co Donegal.
They were killed in a horrific road smash on the N13 last Saturday morning as they returned home in icy conditions after leaving Sean's girlfriend off at Derry city airport.
Yesterday, John's distraught widow Hillary linked arms with her daughters, Aisling (22), Aoife (18) and Eilish (14), and Sean's girlfriend, Lauren Proctor, as they walked in the rain behind the hearses to St Mary's Church.
Spelled out in floral wreaths against the coffins were the poignant words that summed up their lives; 'Husband' 'Daddy' 'Son', 'Brother' and 'Kickboxer'.
Behind them, hundreds of people walked in silence up the hill to a chapel that was already filled to overflowing, each with their own memories of two men who were deeply committed to their neighbourhood and their community.
Their untimely, violent deaths had left an entire community in "heartbroken desolation", parish priest Fr Michael Carney told mourners.
"We gather as a broken people with very heavy hearts. We are stunned, we are numbed, we are bewildered by what has happened.
"Silence speaks of profound grief and tears express the words that fail us," he said.
Arranmore island native John Gallagher, known as 'Arranmore John' in his adopted home, had lived his life for his family with "love, care, generosity and warm-heartedness", the parish priest said.
And he had passed on his good traits and characteristics to his son.
"From what so many people have said, Sean Gallagher would have given a very vivid picture of his father, by his manner, by his life and by his ways. The example of the father was seen in the positive characteristics of the son," he said.
They had shared many common interests and loves, perhaps the most precious beyond family being their love for Arranmore island, off the west Donegal coast.
"John, born to the sound, taste and smell of the sea, gave Sean the love of his island birthplace, its people and their heritage," said Fr Carney.
But he also had a great love and appreciation of his adopted home. "Stories abound about a quiet, unassuming, gentle man, doing a good turn for people, calling into this house and that, seeing that people were all right. This was the hallmark of a life lived for people, for his neighbourbood and for his community," said Fr Carney.
He added that the groups with which both men were associated read like a calendar of events in the life of Ramelton.
Guards of honour were formed by the local Scoil Mhuire primary school, where Sean had taught PE, the Loreto Community College in Milford and the Arranmore United football team.
Tears flowed down the faces of the congregation inside and outside the packed chapel when the Luther Vandross song, 'Dance with My Father Again', was played.
Later, by the graveside, mother, daughters and girlfriend dropped red roses into the graves, as the bodies were laid to rest, side by side.