Goodbye dear Jimmy
Ballintogher community comes together to say farewell to popular, kind and funny Jimmy Loughlin. Sorcha Crowley reports
The village of Ballintogher fell silent last Wednesday as one of their youngest and brightest souls was laid to rest.
Hundreds of mourners filled St Therese's Church to honour Jimmy Loughlin and support his family through their ordeal.
Chief celebrant Fr Vincent Connaughton summed up the mood when he began by saying "we shouldn't be here today. Things were supposed to be different."
Flanked by Fr Stephen Walsh, Fr A.B. O'Shea of Riverstown and Chaplain of Sligo University Hospital Fr Brian Condon, Fr Connaughton described the budding DJ's death as "very sad, unnecessary and untimely."
The 20-year-old was murdered on Saturday 24th February at the house he was living at on Connolly Street in Sligo town.
31-year-old Richard McLoughlin of City Gate Apartments, Connolly Street, Sligo has been charged with his murder and is currently on remand in Castlerea Prison.
Jimmy's parents Michael and Paula, sisters Grace, Rose and Kitty, grandparents Sonny and Mary and Jim and Beth from England, his girlfriend Ellen and a huge circle of close friends and work colleagues from McDonalds were consoled by hundreds from the community and further afield.
Pupils from his alma mater Coola Post-Primary School and Ballygawley Celtic formed a Guard of Honour as his remains entered the church.
Symbols of Jimmy's life were presented to the altar by his friends. First up was Jimmy's maroon baseball cap. "He wasn't complete without wearing his cap and I just saw a lovely word, 'Blessed' on it," said Fr Connaughton.
It was followed by Jimmy's favourite aftershave - which Fr Connaughton wore in his honour - and DJ's headphones.
His girlfriend Ellen presented a special watch as a gift of her love for Jimmy.
In his homily Fr Connaughton said what happened to Jimmy "isn't right." He gave voice to how the community was "deeply grieved" at the unfairness of his sudden death.
"Things aren't meant to be like this. It was meant to be different. There are no easy words that can we can say that can explain the injustice of what happened to Jimmy last Saturday.
"All that we can do in the days and weeks to come is to continue to be whatever comfort we can to his Mum and Dad and sisters and all his relations," he told the congregation.
"Since last Saturday when the news of Jimmy's awful death came through, I heard everything beautiful about this young man. Kind, loving, very, very genuine words about Jimmy,"he said.
"I want to follow on today with the sentiments so beautifully expressed by his family, his friends and the wider community.
"Jimmy was full of life, full of the beauty of youth and full of future plans like many of our young people gathered in the church here today.
"Jimmy was successful in everything that he achieved, having completed his first year at college in Sligo, we know he decided to take a wee break and was about to start his new office job last Monday morning here in Sligo, something that he was looking forward to.
"He was so successful in working part time in McDonalds where he became loved, cherished and admired by young and old alike.
Fr Connaughton recalled a story told to him by Jimmy's mother Paula about his help to an elderly woman in McDonalds.
"She admired his love and affection and his kindness that he gave to her, an elderly citizen in life," he said.
"For me, Jimmy Loughlin gave respect but he earned respect so beautifully," he said.
"Those of us who grew up with him, or perhaps raised him up or who watched him grow up might perhaps be feeling that at just 20 years of age he was a boy but he wasn't, he was a man. And he was a good man at that.
"That is why in the last few difficult days we've all struggled to come to terms with the tragedy that brings us together here this afternoon.
He painted a picture of a kind-hearted, funny young man popular with his peers and elders alike.
"Jimmy had a sense of humour. He was a young man always able to play a joke in a funny way. He enjoyed these moments and catching you out. A highly intelligent young man. He always stood up for the vulnerable and injustice in society.
At school he was never afraid to ask questions but he always wanted a satisfactory answer.
The parish priest said Jimmy loved football - in his early years, to chuckles of mirth from the congregation.
He played with Ballygawley Celtic until he gave it up, Fr Connaughton thought "because his glasses got in the way."
Jimmy's real strong gift in life was music however. His talent being a DJ was evident in functions, no later than the Thursday night before his death.
"It brought him fantastic satisfaction. An area of his life that he truly cherished," he said.
Conversations began and ended with music and showbiz and the various acts that were coming up in Sligo town.
"He lit up all our hearts and lives forever in the years to come where he will burn forever," he said.
The other aspect of Jimmy Loughlin, said Fr Connaughton, was that he always wanted to look well.
"He always wanted to present himself well for his everyday appearance. Whether it was his style of clothing or the gel in the hair, he enjoyed being admired and always kept himself in great condition," he said.
He had a very close bond with his family, that he truly adored. When you had a friend in Jimmy, you had a good sincere friend for the rest of your life.
Fr Connaughton remembered his housemates Ian and Dara, girlfriend Ellen, Gráinne, Conor and many close friends who now had to live without him.
"This is a sad and cruel goodbye that we have to say today. All we can be grateful for, is who he was and what he meant to all who loved him, liked him, enjoyed him and appreciated him and the fact that his life though short, was a good and happy one.
"The memories of him are always going to be warm and good in the time ahead," he said.
Fr Connaughton noted that the day after the funeral, Thursday 1st March, Jimmy would have been heading to Poland for a holiday with his girlfriend Ellen.
Jimmy's sister Grace read a poignant reflection at the end of the mass.
"Day by day we will try to ease this pain that has wounded us deeply. We will do our very best to restore our happiness with the thought of your infectious laughter. I promise I will keep your kindness safe and will cherish it forever.
"I'm so proud of you Jimmy and all you have accomplished. I have and always will continue to look up to you. You will continue to flourish and we will protect you in our hearts forever. We love you to the moon and back Jimmy," she read.
Jimmy's uncle Paul thanked everyone and said for the Bishop of the diocese to visit them the day before was a great honour.
He spoke about his family's ties which stretched from London back to Sligo - Jimmy's great-grandfather Paddy was involved in the construction of St Therese's Church back in the 1930's.
He recalled his mother getting The Sligo Champion in the Irish shop in London, and other reminders of home, such as silvermints, and Tayto crisps. "We'd come here every year and we'd always make trips up to see our relatives in Sligo. We always saw this as a fun place, a place of parties. Back in London we'd think about the mountains and the lake and it would cheer us up," he said.
He hoped too, that the connections they had with Jimmy would last as long.
"Jimmy also had a family with McDonalds and they have been so supportive," he said.
Music during the funeral mass was provided by organist Caroline Burns, Niamh Clancy and internationally-acclaimed harpist and composer Michael Rooney. Jimmy Loughlin was then laid to rest in Sooey Cemetery.