The saddest of occasions
Crowds flocked to Mullinabreena Church to pay their respects at the double funeral of Michael Feely and his daughter Caitriona
IT WAS the sight of the two hearses that brought home the enormity of the tragedy.
Beneath an overcast sky, with a wind-swept mist whipping across South Sligo, they arrived just after midday outside the Church of the Sacred Heart in Mullinabreena.
The hearses bore the remains of Michael Feely and his daughter, Caitriona.
An overflowing congregation had already gathered for their funeral Mass.
Their remains were solemnly taken to the front of the white and gold-painted altar.
There, they rested side by side.
Caitriona, 34, lost her life in a house fire in Aylesbury Park, just outside Sligo.
Her nephews Ryan, 18, and Haiden, 3, managed to escape.
Three days later, Caitriona's father, Michael, succumbed to cancer in Sligo Regional Hospital.
Chief concelebrant of the Mass, Fr Peter Gallagher said: "The whole parish, and indeed all of County Sligo, was shocked and saddened to hear of the deaths.
"When we hear of tragedies, we always hope it's in some other place and not someone we know."
He told how he was at a function when he heard there was a fire in Sligo in which someone from near Tubbercurry had lost their life.
He continued: "When I came home, checked the teletext and saw the name, I hoped it wasn't the Caitriona from here in our own parish.
"A few minutes later, my worst fears were confirmed as undertaker Gerry Mullen phoned to tell me what had happened and to make funeral arrangements."
Fr Gallagher said Michael's death made it a double tragedy.
But he added they had "to be thankful to God things were not worse."
He said: "If the fire had broken out a few hours later, God only knows the enormity of the tragedy we could be dealing with today.
"We have two deaths to cope with.
"The prayers, sympathy and support of all in the community goes out to those who are so deeply affected by this tragedy."
Chief mourners were Michael's wife, Rita (nee Durkin), and their daughter, Caroline.
Michael is also survived by a sister, Marie.
Fr Gallagher recalled how Michael, Rita and Caitriona were regular Mass-goers.
He said: "They were at Mass here every Sunday until a decline in health prevented that regular routine.
"Michael came with the aid of crutches, when his body was weak and he was barely able to come.
"Yet he never wanted to miss Sunday Mass.
"After a number of setbacks, he had to settle for the First Friday Communion visits.
"And Caitriona too would be there to receive Holy Communion."
Concelebrants of the Mass with Fr Gallagher were Fr Tom Hever, Fr Leo Henry, Fr Paul Kevlihan and Fr Jim Finan.
Hymns were sung by members of the local parish choir.
Organist was Kathleen Gorman, soloist Ann Henry and flautist Harry McGowan.
After final blessing and commendation, the remains of Michael and Caitriona were carried from the church.
As the coffins were taken down the centre aisle, strains from "Nearer My God To Thee" echoed in their wake.
The two hearses were waiting outside.
Then, amid the wind-driven rain, Michael and Caitriona were taken on their slow, final journey to nearby Court Abbey Cemetery.