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Saturday 20 October 2018

Mourners celebrate 'beautiful life' of businesswoman Gillian Bowler

FAREWELL: The funeral hearse arriving at Mount Jerome. Photo: Steve Humphreys
FAREWELL: The funeral hearse arriving at Mount Jerome. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Pat Kenny. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Mary Harney and husband Brian Geoghegan. Photo: Steve Humphreys
LAST RESPECTS: Broadcaster Anton Savage at the service. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Liam Collins

Liam Collins

"It's like going back in time to the 1980s," said a mourner leaving the packed funeral service for Gillian Bowler in the Victorian Chapel, Mount Jerome, Dublin yesterday.

Gillian Bowler, who had suffered from kidney ailments all her life, died last Wednesday at the age of 64.

Her coffin was carried into the church, followed by her husband Harry Sydner, her step-daughter Rachel and her sister Geraldine, to the strains of In the Arms of an Angel. Her grandson Sean read the lesson.

Her mother Josephine was unable to travel from England to the funeral.

Fr Gerry Byrne said he had known Gillian Bowler for the 25 years she had been coming to the Blackrock Clinic.

Describing her as a woman of "great style and confidence", he added that was the "public Gillian", founder of Budget Travel, but behind it there was another Gillian who was kind and thoughtful.

Diarmuid Gavin arriving at the Victorian Chapel. Photo: Steve Humpreys
Diarmuid Gavin arriving at the Victorian Chapel. Photo: Steve Humpreys

He read the same reflection that she had read at her father-in-law's funeral: "Death is nothing at all, I have only slipped away to the next room."

Gillian had asked for a simple ceremony and wanted "no air of false solemnity" at her funeral.

Professor Dermot Hegarty, who gave the eulogy, said it was "a celebration of a beautiful life". Gillian, he said, was an iconic businesswoman, ahead of her time and an inspiration to others, particularly in pioneering foreign travel in Ireland in the late 1970s and 1980s.

"She was a woman of indomitable spirit", who had first run away from home at the age of six, and he told stories of her life and adventures with Harry, whom she first met in Dublin but then later cemented their relationship after tracking him down to a bar he was running on the Greek island of Corfu.

A picture of Gillian Bowler on her coffin. Photo: Steve Humphreys
A picture of Gillian Bowler on her coffin. Photo: Steve Humphreys

"She was a woman of style and substance, self-reliant and determined to be the best, a woman who always pushed out the boundaries," he said, "intelligent and bright, glamorous and tough when it was needed."

To the strains of Silent Night, the crematorium curtain closed on the coffin and the large crowds sympathised with her husband and family.

Among the large attendance were businessman Pascal Taggart, former Progressive Democrat leader and Tanaiste Mary Harney, broadcasters Pat Kenny and Vincent Browne, chef John Howard, Sunday Independent books editor Madeleine Keane, garden expert Diarmuid Gavin, accountant Des Peelo, public relations executives Ray Gordon and James Morrissey, Eileen Gleeson and many other friends and acquaintances.

Sunday Independent

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