Tributes poured in from all over the world for Simon W. Kennedy, the New Ross solicitor who died in St. James Hospital last week following a four-year battle with cancer.
The Duncannon native achieved national attention for his chairmanship of County Wexford GAA and international attention for his involvement in many high-profile court cases.
Following his death, many friends sent messages describing him as 'a giant of a man and a star in every field he played on', 'a rare gem and a genuine character', 'a great and wonderful human being who stood up for those who could not fight themselves' and 'a great Wexfordman never to be forgotten'.
Simon was a former seminarian who left his studies for the priesthood to train as a solicitor. He became internationally known in 1983 for his defence of the late Eileen Flynn who was dismissed from her teaching job at the Holy Faith Convent in New Ross because she was pregnant and unmarried, and later,in 1998, during the clerical sex abuse scandals in the Diocese of Ferns, he sued the Papal Nuncio.
Simon wrote two bestselling books, 'The Year the Whales Came In' in 2004, based on the Fethard-on-Sea boycott of the 1950s and 'Sacred Cows Silent Sheep' comprising short stories about defining events and incidents in rural Ireland over six decades, offering insights into his work as a solicitor.
He was regarded as a reforming chairman of the GAA Wexford County Board when he was chairman in I985, 1986 and 1987
There was huge turn-out at his funeral with over 500 people including community leaders, politicians, religious, university academics, GAA officials, members of the legal profession and people from the world of music, culture, heritage and the arts from Wexford and Ireland gathering in Our Lady of the Sea Church in Duncannon for his Requiem Mass.
The attendance overflowed from the church and many people stood outside for the hour-long ceremony.
His friend and neighbour, Fr John Nolan, Parish Priest in Duncannon, was the chief celebrant. He was attended on the altar by eight other Diocesan priests, Fr Brian Whelan, Fr Odhran Furlong, Fr Tom McGrath, Fr. John French, Fr. Paddy O'Brien, Fr. Murty Byrne, Fr. Michael Doyle and Fr Jim Kehoe while Fr Hugh O'Byrne and other priests were among the congregation.
Fr Gerry Neylon and Fr Tony Kavanagh of the Columban Fathers from Navan, Co. Meath who were fellow students of Simon from his four years in the seminary there, also assisted on the altar.
Among the messages from overseas was one from Fr. Tommy Murphy, former Superior General of the Columbans in Beijing, China, who was a fellow seminarian with him in Dalgan Park, Navan, County Meath.
On the day before the funeral, hundreds more people queued at Ryan's Funeral Home in Wellingtonbridge where he reposed for more than seven hours as friends, colleagues and neighbours paid their last respects and sympathised with his wife Lillian and family members.
There was a distinctly Irish Celtic theme to the funeral Mass which began with music from Planxty played by Hall's Céilí Band which he co-founded and played banjo with in the Strand Tavern for more than five years.
It continued with 'Mo Ghrá Thu a Tiarna' sung by his nieces Aileen and Áine accompanied by them on their Irish harps, and his grandson Ciaran Fox of Gorey; O'Carolan's Concerto, an instrumental piece; The Croppy Boy, in memory of those who died at Duncannon Fort; an instrumental rendition of Boolavogue, May the Road rise to Meet You, Inis Oir and An tAthair Baistí, (The Godfather), an instrumental piece on harp which was composed in tribute to him by his niece and godchild Aileen.
The Readings were done by his daughter Sinead Fox and his son Niall. Prayers of the Faithful were read by grandsons Cathal and Ciarán, his daughters Gráinne and Niamh, his son Brian and his wife Lillian who read one of his favourite prayers, The Ravensbruck Prayer.
His son Patrick thanked the many people who had been supportive of him and the family. Gifts were brought to the altar by Laoise, Cathal, Jack, Niall, Niamh, Patrick, Sinead, Charlene and Padhraig.
There was special thanks for the doctors and staff of St James' Hospital and from Duncannon, Dr. Kevin Byrne and Dr. Helen Doyle and staff.
Local club members formed a guard of honour at his graveside beside the church and overlooking Duncannon Bay and Duncannon Fort.