Monday 16 December 2019

Flatley to honour mum's last wish by flying body to Ireland for burial

Michael Flatley with his mother Elizabeth. Photo: James Connolly
Michael Flatley with his mother Elizabeth. Photo: James Connolly

Ralph Riegel

Lord of the Dance Michael Flatley is to honour his parents’ last wishes by having them buried together in their native Ireland.

“It was a love affair that would last for 60 years. They would conquer the world together,” he said.

The dancer’s mother, Elizabeth ‘Eilish’ Flatley (81), died on December 28 in Chicago in the US.

His father, Michael James Flatley (88), died in March 2015 and was buried in Carlow.

Mrs Flatley’s family were by her side as she passed away and the dancer simply said: “Her heart just gave out.”

Her US funeral arrangements were staged on Saturday in Orland Park, Chicago.

However, Mrs Flatley insisted she wanted to be buried in Ireland alongside her husband.

He was interred in picturesque Glynn-St Mullins on the Carlow-Wexford border two years ago.

Now, the dancer has confirmed that his mother will be buried following Requiem Mass in the same church from which his father was buried.

The Requiem Mass is expected to be staged next Tuesday.

The dancer described his father as his “hero” – and said his entire family were also “blessed” with a mother who was devoted to her family and immersed in Irish culture.

“We were blessed that my mother and my grandmother (Hannah Ryan) both carried on the tradition and gave us the opportunity to do something that is uniquely Irish,” he said.

“She was a truly remarkable woman. My father and mother were totally devoted to each other. They were blessed with a fabulous relationship

– 60 years married. They worked side by side to build the family plumbing business.”

“They never took weekends off. They never took holidays. We didn’t have a nanny or a housekeeper growing up.”

“My mother did it all. I’m so proud of them and we are blessed to have had them as parents.”

“It is such a very, very sad time for us.”

His mother hailed from Carlow while his father was from Sligo.

They both moved to the US for work in the 1940s and met at an Irish dance in Detroit. The couple married in 1956.

They later relocated their family to Chicago and worked to build up a successful plumbing business.

However, the couple insisted that their five children be raised with an appreciation of Irish art and culture – with their son, Michael, being introduced to Irish dancing by his mother and grandmother.

He went on to become the first American to win the World Irish Dancing Championship and performed regularly with The Chieftains.

Mr Flatley achieved fame with first ‘Riverdance’ and then ‘Lord of the Dance’, ‘Feet of Flames’ and ‘Celtic Tiger.’

He purchased Castlehyde House in north Cork for €3m and the subsequent €27m refurbishment of the mansion was in part inspired by his parents and their deep love of Ireland.

Both his parents were regular visitors to the River Blackwater property, attending every Christmas party and major celebration staged there.

His mother admitted one of her most memorable evenings at Castlehyde was hosting Hollywood legend, Maureen O’Hara, whom she had been in awe of in the 1940s and 50s.

However, his mother remained a woman of simple tastes with The Chicago Sun Times pointing out that, despite her son’s fame, her favourite meal remained tuna sandwich and a glass of chocolate milk.

Mrs Flatley is survived by her sons, Michael and Patrick, daughters, Liza, Thoma and Annie as well as sons in law, daughters in law and grandchildren.

Irish Independent

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