Sons pay emotional tribute to respected Wicklow farmer John Hurley (94) – ‘We loved you dearly dad, you fought the good fight’
Arklow came to a standstill on Friday morning for the funeral of respected Wicklow farmer John Hurley (94), who was hailed as a “brilliant man with an enthusiasm for all things agricultural, who lived his life to the fullest”.
A succession of moving tributes were paid to the late Mr Hurley – a retired farmer, lover of traditional Irish culture, avid sportsman and father of nine – who died peacefully in the care of his loving family at the Aisling House Nursing Home in Arklow earlier this week.
The emotional funeral mass at St. Joseph's Church, Templerainey was led by Mr Hurley's sons Henry and Garry, with the latter explaining the significance attached to various items of memorabilia as they were placed next to their father’s coffin by his grandchildren.
“Patrick brings up a cow symbolising Dad’s lifelong involvement in farming, the production of milk and breeding,” Garry began.
“Dad had a great love of all sport and took great pride when his children and grandchildren represented the family. Mark and John Paul bring up a hurl and an old Ballymoney jersey, symbolising Dad’s playing days and his support of Gaelic games, which is continued in his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
“Counting all the girls and boys, we could a field a team full of hurlers and camogie players. Although, I wouldn’t like to be the ref on that day!
“Sean brings up a Manchester United jersey – Dad’s favourite team – who kept him very entertained, though it probably wasn’t so entertaining for my mother. He wouldn’t be too happy when they would lose, and it was always the referee’s fault when that happened.
“Stephen brings up a wooden piece that he made, symbolising Dad’s skill with his hands and his woodturning. Finally, Damien brings up an accordion, representing Dad’s love of music singing and Irish culture.”
Addressing the packed congregation, John's son Henry then delivered an eloquent and emotional eulogy that concluded to rapturous applause.
“On behalf of my mother, brothers, sisters and extended family I would like to thank each and every one of you for attending here today, as we support each other and mourn the huge loss of our father John,” Henry said.
“We also celebrate his 94 years of a long life well lived. A life that brought him into contact with many people in all parts of the country.
“Dad’s journey in life began in the town of Arklow in March 1929. His father Henry was one of seven brothers with deep roots in the town and his mother, Liz McDonald, hailed from Monaseed in north Wexford.
“Together, they reared a family of seven and when my father was a young boy they purchased a small farm in Coolmore, for the princely sum of 200 pounds, and moved out to the country.
“My father always said that the man selling the farm was so mean that when he was giving them a coin for luck, he held it behind his back, so he wouldn’t see it going away from him. Dad had a great memory for details such as this,
“When the adjoining farm of 90 acres in Clonpaddin came up for sale, for 900 pounds, my grandparents bought it also. And so began a lifelong interest in farming for my father.
“He worked extremely hard, spending long hours in the field and looking after what was a mixed farm at that time, before finally specialising in dairy later on.
“Having finished his national school education in Brittas Bay, he went to evening classes in Arklow Vocational School to learn the skill of welding, which he became quite accomplished at. He used that to repair farm machinery and repair gates and all sorts of farm equipment.
“As a young man, he developed a lifelong love of Gaelic Football and Hurling withhis local club Ballymoney. He was equally good at both, a dual player.
“At that time he met a local girl, May Ivanoff, who was also a noted camogie player. They married in 1955 and were a formidable team, devoting themselves selflessly to managing the farm and rearing a family of nine.
“Dad was very competitive on the playing pitch, as we heard in the many stories he told us from the past, which encouraged that competitive streak in us.
“He enabled us to participate in athletics, with St Benedicts in Arklow (where he was a founding member), and we were also encouraged to sing songs, learn music, dance, tell stories and jokes and to play football, hurling and camogie and to get involved in community organisations
“There was never a dull moment with Dad. We were always going somewhere or doing something.
“A big part of Dad’s life was showing pedigree Holstein cattle and he was awarded a National Hall of Fame award by the Irish Holstein Friesian Association in 2010. He was very proud of that award.
“The following year, his farm hosted a national open day, which was another big honour for him and the Holstein Friesian Association.
“He was also a founding member of the Slaney Friesian Breeder Club, along with his life-long friend John back in 1976. He had been a staunch supporter of the club since then, enjoying not only the meetings, the shows and the friendships he developed, but also the club tours that took him and Mammy all over Ireland and Great Britain and even further afield.
“In latter years, as Dad took a step back from farming. He went to evening classes to learn the art of woodturning and he produced many beautiful lamps, bowls and clocks etc.
“At this time too, he spent more time watching all kinds of sports on television and developed a following for Machester United. All games became important events in the weekly schedule.
“In latter years, he underwent a hip operation and made a very successful recovery, such was his determination.
“Throughout his life, he followed medical advice carefully and this stood to him with his diabetes, which he never really had a problem with it. However, after contracting Covid last March, he spent five months in St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin and, against all odds, recovered sufficiently to allow him to take up a place at Aisling House Nursing Home in Arklow.
“We often worried about him settling in, but he always said that the food was great, which was half the battle!
“Dad’s enthusiasm for all things agriculture, all things rural and doing something to the best of your ability has left a legacy of admiration but also left a huge void in the lives of all family and friends who knew him, either as a father, a husband, a brother or a neighbour.
“We loved you dearly Dad, you fought the good fight. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.”
Husband to May, father to Henry, Eftim, Elizabeth, Garry, Frances, Paul, Mary, Patrick, Teresa and the late baby Anthony, brother to Anne and the late Garry, Mary, Helen, Peggy and Betty, loving grandparent, great grandparent and friend to so many, John Hurley was laid to rest in St Gabriel’s Cemetery in Arklow.
May he rest in peace.