Friday 24 January 2020

Farewell, Sir Jack - soldier, knight and lover of 'boom-boom music'

The horsedrawn carriage carrying the coffin of Sir Jack Leslie. Photo: Philip Fitzpatrick.
The horsedrawn carriage carrying the coffin of Sir Jack Leslie. Photo: Philip Fitzpatrick.
Sir John (Jack) Leslie
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

Letters of sympathy still lie in the Leslie family archives from the time Sir Jack was taken prisoner by the Nazis and presumed dead.

More than 70 years later, a lone piper played a lament as the venerable soldier was laid to rest - at the age of 99 - near his beloved Castle Leslie.

In that time in between, he had lived life to the full and was well-known as the oldest clubber in Ibiza.

But central to his requiem mass at St Mary's Church in Glaslough, Co Monaghan was one of his less-publicly known roles - as a Knight of the Order of Malta and the longest-serving member of the Order in Ireland.

His coffin was draped in the red flag of the chivalrous order, in existence since the Middle Ages.

Among mourners at the funeral was French Ambassador HE Jean-Pierre Thébault - who last year presented Sir Jack with the Legion d'Honneur - the highest honour in France.

Also there were Lord and Lady Rosse and their daughter Lady Alicia Parsons of Birr Castle in Offaly, Desmond Guinness and family, Philip Shirley of Carrickmacross - who is a cousin of David Cameron's and film score composer Lance Hogan.

But most of those who gathered in the little church where Jack had gone to the vigil mass every Saturday evening, were his beloved nieces and nephews, family members and local people.

"He did so much around here, you wouldn't believe it," said one woman.

Symbols brought to the altar signifying his life included his trademark beret with its peacock feather, a CD of his favourite "boom-boom music" - which prompted laughter from the mourners - a copy of his memoir 'Never A Dull Moment', and his various military medals.

Chief Celebrant Fr Hubert Martin told the family they would always remember the sun shining on the cortege.

At the graveside in Castle Leslie, Jack's niece, Sammy, paid a tearful farewell to "Uncle Jack", revealing that his last wish was that mourners would gather at the house for "champagne, orangeade, tea, coffee and round cakes cut in slices".

Irish Independent

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