Town says sad farewell to 'angel' brothers
JACK Blaine loved his home town. He wasn't one for speaking much, so instead he lavished his affection on its shops and cafes by planting kisses on the windows and doors as his small stooped frame slowly pottered up and down the streets, day in, day out, rain or shine.
Yesterday, as he lay in a coffin alongside that of his younger brother Tom, it was these innocent kisses which were invoked in a poem written in his memory by Clodagh O'Brien which was read from the altar by a relative, Theresa Dunne.
"Around the town he laid kisses.
Soft and wet they glistened on windows and doorframes.
They were his gifts, each one a puckered blessing.
Bent into a swirl he shuffled from street to street, a daily routine threaded into his soul like breadcrumbs."
The Church of the Holy Rosary was full for the requiem Mass. Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who arrived after the Mass had begun, stood in the porch at the back of the church along with the town's deputy lord mayor Ger Deere.
Still reeling from the violent way in which the two brothers were killed in their home last Wednesday, the people of Castlebar were determined to do Jack and Tom proud at the end.
There were seven clerics on the altar to assist the chief celebrant, Fr Michael Farragher, including Bishop John Dunne. There were hymns beautifully sung by soloist Elaine Madden. And there were the most poignant of items carried to the coffins to symbolise the simple, quiet lives of the slain brothers.
For Jack there was a wooden model of a car, as he loved watching the cars around the town; there was a statue of the Child of Prague to symbolise his deep faith, and also his mug which he would bring over and back from Rocky's bar across the road from their modest two-storey terraced home throughout the day, where he was never denied as many refills as he wanted.
For Tom there was a set of rosary beads. "He'd also be here in the church, you'd meet him especially on a wet day, maybe two Dunnes shopping bags with him," said Fr Farragher, adding that a bag of fruit was also being brought to the altar "because Tom was the one who went shopping in that house".
On top of each coffin were two framed photos of the men. It was sadly telling that all four images were old ones, blurred snapshots of fuzzy figures captured as if by chance as a camera shutter clicked as they quietly went about their business.
The two men hadn't caught many breaks throughout their lives; they had gone to England to work, but Jack was injured in a building-site accident in which he lost several toes – hence his shuffling gait as he walked the streets of Castlebar.
Both brothers had their own special needs, but returned to Mayo to look after their mother Delia in her final years.
And since then, they've looked after each other, aided and abetted by kind and watchful neighbours and relatives, especially their cousin Paul Dunne and Michael Rocky Moran, publican and supplier of tea, minerals and a bit of company.
In his eulogy, Fr Farragher spoke of how Castlebar had a power cut last Tuesday night, and he and a parishioner had met outside the church that evening and chatted about what had caused the brief blackout.
"Little did we know that within 12 hours the town would be overshadowed by another quietness and darkness as we awoke on Wednesday to hear of the tragic deaths of Jack and Tom Blaine," he said. "Since that morning the parish and beyond have been engulfed by horror, shock, disbelief and fear."
A 26-year-old man, Alan Cawley, of Four Winds, Corrimbla, South Ballina, has been charged with both murders. He will appear before Harris-town District Court on Friday.
In the aftermath of their murders, some townspeople had described the two men as "angels", he said. "Sacred scripture tells us that we should revere the angels and that we should not do anything to harm these little ones. That is why what happened to Jack and Tom on Wednesday is so wrong, so awful and so sad," he said.
At the close of the Mass, which was attended by Fianna Fail TD Dara Calleary, former government minister Padraig Flynn and his daughter, former Mayo TD Beverley Flynn, the Blaines' cousin, Paul Dunne, thanked the parish and the gardai for their help in the wake of the tragedy.
"People have closed their businesses as a mark of respect to these two men in the church," he said.
And then Jack and Tom were carried together through the twin doors of the church, as the Taoiseach and the local community silently bade the brothers farewell as they made their final journey to Castlebar New Cemetery where they were laid to rest beside their mother Delia.
Jack kissed the town, and the town kissed him and his beloved brother right back.