Thursday, June 30, 2016


We're a man down
Fr. Stephen Farragher

A small thing, you might say, in such a large parish. But when the man is part of the fabric of the parish, not just in a church sense, but in the wider social and community meaning, then the phrase takes on the significance of a red card at an all-Ireland final. And that is no small thing.

Matt O'Dwyer had his roots in not just the present day community of the wider Ballyhaunis, but also in its past. His grandfather served there (Barrack St.), his father taught its people (Coolnafarna), as did his mother in the local national school, and Matt was born there (Abbeyquarter) and spent his life teaching there.

It would probably be true to say that there is not a person in Ballyhaunis who has not been touched in some way by Matt's contribution to the life of the area.

I went down to his funeral on Tuesday (28/6/2016) and from the time I arrived till I left the following day, I was overwhelmed by the sense of community which underlay the intensity of the widespread grief at Matt's sudden death.

Matt was reposing at his home on Doctor's Road, Ballindrehid, on Tuesday afternoon prior to the removal to the church. There was a constant queue of people coming through the front door and it took four and a half hours, without any break, to file past the coffin and for people to pay their respects.

The removal itself was a slow walk from the house to St. Patrick's church on Upper Main Street. This, in a slightly eerie silence where the only sound was the tread of feet on the roadway as we passed the small groups of neighbours at their gateways.

The gathering in the church was both public and intimate and again there were expressions of grief and sympathy as people commiserated with Geraldine and the family at the top of the church. Another long endless file.

St. Patrick's on the morning of Matt's funeral
Click on any image for a larger version

The next morning more people from out of town arrived for the funeral mass, and for those who could not be physically present there was still a chance to be there via the live webcast.

St. Patrick's is an impressive church. It was built and dedicated at the beginning of the twentieth century and has seen many Dwyer funerals since then. The spire was only completed as late as 1999 as a Millennium Project and I'm told the church is one of only two dedicated churches in the country. For dedication, as opposed to consecration, a church has to be debt free and empty for the day of dedication, ie all the pews and other furniture taken out. This probably explains why so few are in a position to opt for this as they will be in debt when newly built and it becomes a big operation at a later stage.

While I was at the church I took the opportunity to pay my respects to Canon McGarry who is buried in the grounds.

Mass was concelebrated by seven priests, which, while a great tribute to Matt, may seem a bit of an extravagance in the light of the Eucharistic famine stalking the land, but that is a matter for another day. There were four altar servers. Happily I can't say altar boys any more because one of them was a girl. Not quite 51% but certainly reflecting well on the Parish Priest (quoted above) when I gather there are parishes which won't tolerate any of this post-conciliar nonsense.

The service was inspirational with the PP's talk honed to perfection. He knew the family well and had been at the hospital over the weekend. The choir and instrumentalists were very good and I think I detected a version of Plaisir d'Amour slipped in along with Ag Críost an Síol, but I couldn't determine if that was purely as a piece of secular music, however appropriate, or if it had been expropriated by the church into its holy hymnal.

Matt's funeral in Main Street, Ballyhaunis.

And then the walk through the town to the graveyard. Traders closed their doors and stood outside and the Garda made sure the procession passed smoothly through the square and then up the hill into Abbeyquarter.

Matt's parents' grave - Jimmy & Maura

The graveyard, where his parents and grandparents are buried, is just across the road from where Matt himself was born.

Matt and Geraldine in happier times (2007)

Geraldine was magnificent in the face of what fell out of the heavens on top of her and she had great support from equally grieving family and friends.

I extend my own sympathy to her (as a former Louis boy - Rathmines).

Myself and Matt (2007)

I gather the Yanks nicked most of the photos from the family home in Barrack Street but by some miracle they missed a few which were long later discovered by the next-door neighbours, the O'Malleys, who had bought the house after Aunt Molly's death.

These they gave to Matt and he gave me a loan of them. Otherwise I'd never have known what our great grandfather, Luke Reilly had looked like.

Luke Reilly

So, once again Matt, a belated thanks for that contribution to our family history.

Rest in Peace


Póló said...

The Master

You can read about Matt's father Jimmy and the school in Coolnafarna in these extracts from Annagh Magazine.

A good teacher can change your life and I was very proud of Uncle Jimmy when I read these originally. Thanks to Michael O'Dwyer for pointing them out to me and my compliments to those who digitised the issues of Annagh Magazine and made this wonderful store of local lore available to a wider audience.

Póló said...

There is a very nice obituary in this week's edition of the Western People.