Fr Kevin Hegarty
ON September 9, I led a memorial service at Scotchport on the Mullet Peninsula in Erris. The purpose of the service was to remember ten crew members of the SS Tuskar who died 100 years ago on September 6, 1917. The SS Tuskar was a British steamer en route from Glasgow to Limerick, carrying general cargo.
It was sunk three miles off Eagle Island by a mine launched from a German submarine. Among the victims was a 15 year-old cabin boy from Glasgow. Two grandnieces of another casualty, Donegal man James Tinney, laid a wreath in remembrance at Scotchport.
On that Saturday we recalled a tragedy whose pain had been soothed by time. Little did we know then that tragedy was once again about to visit our community with immediate and terrible effect.
It seemed as if last Monday (September 11), was going to be an ordinary day. Autumn was in the air, the frenzy of August in Erris was over, the students were back at their desks. We were in the harvest hiatus between the sunshine of summer and the severity of winter.
In this football obsessed county we were looking forward to the All-Ireland Final. Mayo flags fluttered outside most houses. Shop windows were swathed in the green and red. In homes, shops and on the streets of Belmullet, we talked of whether Mayo could reclaim the Sam Maguire after 66 years? Would we return from Croke Park to meet the bonfires blazing from Shrule to Blacksod? Or would we return once again in gloom and disillusion, the cheers of the victorious Dubs ringing in our ears.
Then the grim happening on the Claremorris to Galway road put the search for the holy grail of Sam Maguire into perspective. Early in the afternoon as news began to filter through that three members of the Wilson family, spanning three generations, had been killed in a road accident, an eerie silence descended on the community. In the scriptures we read that darkness came over the land after Jesus died on the cross. It seemed to me on Monday afternoon of last week that a spiritual darkness enveloped our community. I thought of the words of WH Auden in his poem ‘Funeral Blues’.
“Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone, the stars are not wanted now, put out everyone. Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun, pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can come to any good.”
I led the funeral liturgy in Binghamstown Church last Friday for Mary Ann and Marcella Wilson and Seán Wilson-McGlynn. I was acutely aware that no words, not even in the multi-volume Oxford Dictionary, could be found to meet the anguish of the bereaved - Josie Wilson, Mary Ann’s husband and his family, Marcella’s children, Amy, Kelly and Anthony and Séan’s father, Anthony McGlynn. I felt that all my attempts to say something meaningful ended in a different kind of failure.
All I could do was offer my condolences to the bereaved, reflect on how Mary Ann, Marcella and Séan enriched the lives of those who loved them, and pray that in the dark days ahead of them, that they might find the reality of the words of scripture that ‘God is close to the broken hearted, those whose spirit is crushed, he will save’.
It is one of the fundamental insights of Christianity that Jesus Christ journeys with us in our pain. A cross in Coventry Cathedral aptly illustrates this insight. It is made of the melted of crashed cars.
I concluded by saying that as a Christian community we have a duty of care to Amy, Kelly and Anthony to give them the kind of life that Marcella wanted for them. As we return to our daily lives, let us not forget a family whose lives have been tragically disrupted.