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Funerals evoke sadness

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HEARTBREAKING JOURNEYFamily and friends carry the coffin of Aaron Morley out of St Mary’s Church, after the funeral Mass on Saturday. 

Funerals evoke sadness

FUNERAL CEREMONIES

Michael Duffy


IT was no surprise to see the streets of Ballinrobe close to empty just after mid-day last Saturday. The main thoroughfares of the south Mayo capital would normally be busy on a Saturday six weeks before Christmas, but the imminent festivities could not have been further from people’s thoughts on this occasion. Instead the area and its people were consumed with sadness.
The body of Pat Morley, the eldest of the three young men killed in a road accident the previous Wednesday evening, already lay in the confines of St Mary’s Church as the first of the funeral congregation filed in on Saturday morning to pay their respects. By 12.30pm almost all the seats were full. People did not want to be there, their hearts were heavy with grief, but three heartbroken families needed the support of the community - and the community responded, in huge numbers.
The body of the youngest of the three victims, Aaron Morley, arrived at the church at 12.40pm. His parents, Dominick and Bernie, followed their son’s coffin to the front of the church where Aaron was placed alongside his 24-year-old cousin Pat. The Morley cousins grew up together on New Street. They went to school together and even worked together with Irish Pride Bakery. This would have been a special Christmas for the Morleys as Aaron was due to celebrate his 21st birthday on Christmas Day.
The last of the mourners arrived at 1pm as Jonathan Donavan’s family and friends filed into a now packed St Mary’s Church. Jonathan was the driver of the Mitsubishi Lancer which was involved in the horrific accident on Wednesday evening, a car he had only purchased two days prior to the accident.
Monsignor Tom Shannon, Parish Priest of Ballinrobe welcomed everyone to the funeral Mass, noting that everyone had ‘aching hearts and feelings of desolation’.
Addressing the three grieving families, he said he hoped ‘our feeble words will help lift the burden that weighs so heavily on you all today’.
On the altar alongside the Monsignor were Canon Colm Kilcoyne, Fr Ciaran Morahan, Fr Paddy Sheridan, Fr Martin Costello and Fr Peter Walsh and chief celebrant, Fr Michael Gormally. A special welcome was also extended to Church of Ireland Dean of Tuam, Canon Alastair Grimason.
The Monsignor also paid special thanks to Mary McAleese for her prompt message of sympathy, and to Archbishop Michael Neary for his visits to the homes of the deceased on Thursday evening. Messages of sympathy had been sent to the three bereaved families from all over Ireland and beyond, he said.
After a moving homily from Fr Michael Gormally, the families of the three deceased became centrally involved in the ceremony by reading the prayers of the faithful and bringing the gifts to the altar.
Members of Pat’s family brought an Irish flag, in memory of the many years Pat spent as flag-bearer with the Ballinrobe National School band; a collection of booklets which represented his dedication and devotion to the Legion of Mary; his mobile phone, which he constantly used to keep in touch with work and home, and his Irish Pride work-coat which he always wore with pride.
Aaron’s brothers and friends brought the number plate of his twin-cam car to the altar, which was his ‘pride and joy’, and one of many cars he had in his collection. They also brought his remote control car, ‘the car which he one day dreamed of owning’.  A toy which Aaron bought for his niece and photos of his many friends from trips he had taken abroad were also brought to the altar, along with the Autotrader magazine, ‘the bible which Aaron lived by’.
Jonathan’s family and friends brought his drum sticks which he used to share his music with so many; his hoodie and cap identified him to so many people, and his remote control car.
Before the removal of the three coffins, the unmistakable voice of Dolores Keane echoed through the church. She travelled to the ceremony to pay a moving musical tribute to the three young men, in the shape of her famous song ‘Caledonia’.
Jonathan Donavan’s remains were the first to leave St Mary’s Church, followed by his tearful family and friends on the way to his final resting place in The Neale Cemetery.
The rest of the congregation followed the remains of the Morley cousins to Ballinrobe Cemetery, everyone on foot apart from a group of Aaron’s friends, who drove his beloved twin-cam right behind the hearse.
In his homily, Fr Gormally make it clear that there was a message to come loud and clear from this sad occasion. Everyone, not just young people, needed to slow down, read the signposts and lead by example. It’s a message one and all would do well to take heed of.