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Cpl Timmy Heraty (28th Inf. Bn.)

Finner, Co Donegal and Tiernacroagha, Westport
As already briefly reported in The Mayo News, the sudden death in Co Donegal on February 19 of Westport area native, Timmy Heraty of Tiernacroagha (Owenwee), just three days after his 51st birthday, evoked deep and widespread shock and regret.
He was a Corporal in the Irish Army, serving with the 28th Infantry Battalion and based at Finner Military Camp, near Ballyshannon, Co Donegal.
Timmy was son of Mrs Annie Heraty (nee Kerrigan of Letterbrock, Liscarney) and the late Tim Heraty of Tiernacroagha (who died in July, 1986).
He was predeceased by two brothers, Tony (23) and Tommy (19), who died in 1978 and 1980, respectively. Tony, who also served with the 28th Infantry Battalion at Finner Camp, died in a tragic road accident in Co Donegal and Tommy died in a road accident near Liscarney, Westport.
Timmy is deeply mourned and missed by his mother, Mrs Annie Heraty; his wife, Patricia (nee Gethins), Finner, Ballyshannon; his sons – Timmy (20), Stephen (19), Aaron (12) and Shane (11).
He is also survived by his heart-broken brothers and sisters Paddy (Tiernacroagha), Petie (Boleybrian, Owenwee), Gerard and Michael (Tiernacroagha), Vincent (New York) and Paul (Bohea, Liscarney, Westport); Mrs Winnie Innes (Bundoran, Co Donegal), Mrs Mary McGreal (London), Mrs Philomena Higgins (Killawalla, Westport) and Mrs Monica McGreal (Knappagh Mor, Westport). Another brother, John (London), sadly also passed away last week; his funeral is being arranged for Westport
He will also be deeply missed and fondly remembered by a very wide circle of relatives (including aunts, uncle, nieces, nephews, brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law) and a legion of friends.
In 2005, Timmy bravely battled through a critical illness and against all the odds, and to everyone’s amazement and delight, made a miraculous recovery to good health, enabling him to resume his army duties at Finner Camp. His unexpected and sudden death caused numbing shock and disbelief.
Cpl Heraty’s long career in the Irish Army spanned just 15 days short of 34 years. Virtually all of his service was with the 28th Infantry Battalion in Co Donegal. He enlisted at Custume Barracks, Athlone on March 5, 1973, and served a short period there with the 6th Infantry Battalion. He also served a brief period with the 1st Infantry Battalion at Dun Ui Mhaoiliosa, Renmore, Galway, before transferring to the 28th Battalion in Finner Camp. He was promoted to the rank of Corporal on January 31, 1980.
His distinguished Army career included five separate six-month tours of duty with Irish Infantry Battalions serving with the United Nations Peacekeeping Forces in Lebanon. In addition to his Irish Army Service medals, he was awarded the UN Peacekeepers’ Medal and UNIFIL Medal. He successfully completed MT Driver and APC (armoured personnel carrier) driver courses.
Both in army and civilian life, Timmy’s warm and affable personality and wit endeared him to all with whom he served and who had the pleasure of his acquaintance. He was a quiet, unassuming man of simple tastes and pastimes, notably angling and card-playing. His widespread popularity, and the great esteem and respect enjoyed by his immediate and extended family in the Finner and Westport areas, resulted in an exceptionally large and representative attendance at his funeral.
After a traditional wake and laying in repose at the family home at Finner – adjacent to Finner Camp where he served – a huge crowd accompanied the flower-bedecked hearse carrying his Tricolour-draped coffin to St Joseph’s Church, Ballyshannon for his Funeral Mass on Ash Wednesday. At the outskirts of Ballyshannon, Irish Army personnel rendered military honours before forming an Escort Guard to flank the hearse, behind which marched a platoon of soldiers from Finner Camp.
The Irish Army’s ceremonial participation gave a moving and impressive dignity to the funeral cortege, the poignancy of the occasion being heightened by the Army Band from Custume Barracks, Athlone as they led the cortege up the hill to the church playing slow march arrangements. The many senior Army officers in attendance included Brigadier-General Padraic O’Callaghan, General-Officer-Commanding the Fourth Western Brigade; Lt-Col Paddy McDaniels, OC 28th Inf Bn; former 28th Inf Bn OC, Lt-Col Vincent Blythe (retired); Lt Col Eamon Caulfield, OC 6th Inf Bn.
With St Joseph’s Church packed to full capacity, hundreds of people gathered outside in the church grounds in respectful silence.
The concelebrants of the Funeral Mass were Very Rev Frank McManus, Parish Priest of St Joseph’s Parish, Ballyshannon; Rev Alan Ward, Chaplain to the 28th Inf Bn, Finner Camp; Very Rev Denis Carney, Adm, Westport, and An tAthair Micheal McGreil, SJ (Lougloon, Westport), a close friend of the Heraty family and former Irish Army officer.
The readings at the Mass were read by Timmy’s sister-in-law, Mary Gethins, and his eldest son, Timmy. Prayers of the Faithful were recited by Timmy’s sister-in-law, Anna Gethins and nephews and nieces, Kevin, Aoife and Suzanne Heraty and Ciara McGreal. Timmy’s four sons bore the Offertory Gifts to the altar.
Fr Ward, whose first army chaplaincy duty at an Irish soldier’s funeral was, ironically, at Tony Heraty’s 29 years ago, gave a moving homily/eulogy in which he used the analogy of Timmy’s love of card-playing with his positive attitude to life. Fr Ward said he enjoyed the pleasure of Timmy’s company at the weekly friendly poker games at Finner Camp. They shared the distinction of being the only two players never to have won the prize. But not once did Timmy complain about his luck. Week after week he played the game, accepted the hands dealt to him, and went away at the end of the night with a shrug of his shoulders and a smile on his face. “That was typical of Timmy in so many ways,” said Fr Ward.
“For the long time I’ve known him, despite all the trials and setbacks, bereavements and illness, that came his way, I never once heard him complain, express any self-pity, or blame anyone or anything for what came his way. Far from being a ‘moaner’, he was a quiet and witty man, good company and a man always willing to lend a hand.”
Fr Ward said it was no wonder that Timmy’s sudden death had caused shock and sadness in equal measure, not only for his family but for everyone who counted him as a friend. The presence at the funeral of so many people, including many of Timmy’s Army comrades and former members of the Defence Forces, of every rank, who served with him – many of whom had travelled very long distances – spoke volumes about the very high esteem in which he was held.
Fr Ward said Ash Wednesday was the day, by ancient tradition, when Christians everywhere reflected on their mortality. Timmy’s sudden death gave a new urgency to the need for all of us to acknowledge that our lives are borrowed time from God.
Timmy was born in the shadow of Ireland’s famous mountain, Croagh Patrick (The Reek), a unique place of pilgrimage where the uphill struggle and hardship symbolize the journey through life. The pilgrim’s climb involves perseverance and a determination to keep going despite the difficulties. The first reading (Isaiah) at the Funeral Mass referred to God, at the end of time, gathering his people on a holy mountain. “On this mountain the Lord will prepare a banquet, he will destroy death forever. He will wipe away the tears from every cheek.”
Fr Ward said Timmy had surely climbed the mountain and taken his place at the banquet God had prepared for him.
Fr. Ward added that Timmy himself had provided many a banquet, his great prowess as a 25 card player enabling him to delight in providing turkeys and hams around Christmas time for friends and neighbours throughout the Ballyshannon/Bundoran neighbourhood. This was just one example of the kindly nature of Timmy, a man who formed friendships easily in every aspect of his life, whether as a comrade soldier, fisherman or a good neighbour.
Before the conclusion of the Mass, Timmy’s youngest son, Shane, age 11 (who shares his father’s birth date of February 16) read a tribute poem he penned on the night of Timmy’s wake.

A poem for Dad

You are my father,
I am your son.
You would always be
‘Finished and done.’
You’re up in heaven with God
Catching your fish, especially your cod.
You left this earth in
A happy mood
Because you loved your family
You were good.
You’re with your dad and
Brothers too.
We love you, Timmy
God Bless you

Full military honours were rendered at Timmy’s burial in the cemetery adjoining St Joseph’s Church, including the symbolic firing of three rifle volleys by the firing party and the trumpeters sounding of ‘Last Post’ and ‘Reveille’.
May his gentle soul rest in peace.