Saturday 17 August 2019

'A true Dub who made everybody laugh' - thousands of Brendan Grace fans fill streets for funeral

Songs, smiles and tears in fond farewell

Goodbye to Grace: the procession winds through the Liberties in Dublin yesterday. Photo: Mark Condren
Goodbye to Grace: the procession winds through the Liberties in Dublin yesterday. Photo: Mark Condren

Nicola Anderson

One of the UN veterans in the guard of honour apologised to a woman in the crowd for turning his back on her - and complimented her on the black fascinator she wore.

"I'm fas-cin-at-in'," she chirped back at him in the iconic Liberties singsong that is as musical as the bells of Christ Church Cathedral.

In their droves, they came out to welcome back this much-loved, faithful 'Liberties Boy'.

Back from Florida. Back from the 50-year long career that had brought Brendan Grace into people's living rooms and made his characters not only household names but members of the family.

The Liberties had a special mural painted of 'Bottler' in his honour.

"Ah we're very sad!" exclaimed two flower sellers who had shut up shop early in order to pay their last respects to the man who made them laugh so much for so long.

Thousands valiantly lined the streets in the sunshine, some on mobility aides or like Elizabeth McCormack from Clontarf, in a wheelchair.

"She wanted to be here," said her daughter, Marie.

Farewell tears: Crowds mourn the passing of comic genius Brendan Grace. Photo: Mark Condren
Farewell tears: Crowds mourn the passing of comic genius Brendan Grace. Photo: Mark Condren
Grace’s daughter Melanie. Photo: Mark Condren
Daniel O'Donnell. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins

"Brendan was unique. A true Dub who made everybody laugh."

And as the familiar words of the 'Dublin Saunter' rose into the air - started by the Dublin Forget-Me-Nots choir inside the church and carried out on to the streets, few could suppress the lump that rose to the throat.

Amongst those who came to pay their respects at the Church of St Nicholas of Myra on Francis Street were ADC to the President, Col Liam Condon and ADC to the Taoiseach Commandant Caroline Burke.

Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern was present, along with Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin.

From the world of showbiz were Brendan O'Carroll and his wife Jennifer Gibney, Daniel O'Donnell, June Rodgers and Richie Kavanagh.

Twink was there alongside her former husband David Agnew and their daughter Chloe.

Singers Mike Denver, Dickie Rock, Joe Cuddy and Tony Kelly were also present.

Mourners

Veteran comedian Syl Fox and RTÉ's Marty Whelan, Ronan Collins and Marty Morrissey were there as well as Anne Doyle, the well-known former newscaster.

Former Ireland international Niall Quinn was present along with Tom Moran, owner of The Red Cow Inn.

Mourners were led by Brendan's wife Eileen, his children Amanda, Melanie, Bradley and Brendan Patrick.

His grandchildren James, Patrick and Aiden took part in the funeral Mass, bringing up symbols of their beloved grandfather's life.

They were a microphone to symbolise his lifetime of performance, a book of his jokes entitled 'Amusing Grace' and his guitar symbolising his "extraordinary" singing voice.

Music was arranged by Brendan's good friend George Hunter and along with the Forget Me Nots choir featured Red Hurley, Paddy Cole and Finbar Furey.

Chief Celebrant Fr Brian Darcy quipped that Brendan's daughter had phoned him up identifying herself as "Bottler's daughter" and his wife Eileen had said: "I've lost two you know - Brendan and Bottler." "All of us recall the generosity and goodness of the man," he said, adding that everyone has "happy, good, beautiful memories of Brendan Grace."

He spoke of his qualities of laughter, generosity and his ability to lift the gloom of the nation, saying that even when he was in pain and was barely able to walk on to the stage, nobody would have known, he said.

"They don't pay to hear about my ailments, they pay to forget their own," Brendan used to say, he recalled.

Grace's manager for almost 40 years, Brian Keane, quipped that he had told him to "Set up my merch table at the back of the room", adding: "You could shift some of the last DVDs and cut the priest in for 20pc."

But for the well-renowned entertainer who had always put family first, the last word went to his four children, who spoke with intense love of what it had meant to have "Brendan Grace as a dad."

They recalled magical Christmases, their father's love of brightening up people's days and his "hopelessly romantic gestures" towards his wife Eileen in his final hours.

How he would like to be remembered is with "a smile in your heart", said his son Brendan.

As the remains left the church, there was a moment of pure Grace once more, as his legendary lilting voice filled the streets with 'Dublin In the Rare Auld Times'.

Irish Independent

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