‘A great father, he adored that little girl’

Martin McCarthy was a confirmed bachelor until his wife-to-be Rebecca rambled into his life in the mid-2000s.

He had been in a milking parlour and turned around to see Rebecca standing in the doorway.

Long-time friend Paddy Sheehan, the former West Cork TD, said: “She was the love of his life, I can tell you he told me that.

“She had been on a hiking holiday around Ireland and had arrived in West Cork. She strolled down the roadway to Foilnamuck in Ballydehob and came into Martin’s yard at the family farm where he had been raised.

“Martin turned round to see her. He fell in love right away. I know they were always very happy together and their little girl was their pride and joy. He was a personal friend, totally committed to his family, farming and Fine Gael. I was just so shocked to hear of the tragedy. He got involved in politics in the early days of my career and was a life-long supporter.

“He rarely took a holiday but, anytime I was standing for Dáil Éireann or my son Dermot was running for the county council elections, Martin always took five half-days off work to canvass for us.

“I can honestly tell you I could completely rely on Martin,” said Paddy, who left national politics ahead of the 2011 general election. “He was a very professional, progressive, farmer who was very energetic and highly respectable.

“He supplemented his income by renting other farms in Ballydehob, Schull, and Goleen. The last time we met was two months ago. He was always cheerful and full of life and was always talking about progressing in his farm.

“I would call him an exemplary young man who wanted to improve the strains of cattle in West Cork. He was a great provider for his wife.

“Myself and my wife Frances went to their wedding in Ballydehob and to the reception in the West Lodge Hotel in Bantry. She is a lovely woman with a great personality. ”

In Coughlans pub, Ballydehob, licensee Pat Thomas said Martin was in last Thursday. “He was always rushing. He came in for his dinner. He was a very quiet man. His only interest outside farming was his dedication to Fine Gael.

“He always had a few men working for him and he would buy them lunch.

“He never said very much. His mood was always the same and he was nice to everyone. He recently had a health scare and was told to take it easy. He had an awful lot of work on and he continued to do it.

“He was not a drinker and he only came in for food. He was always in his work clothes.”

Painter and decorator Alan Thornbury knew Martin to see. “Some years ago I was working on a house next door to him. He was always busy. He was always nice to people and completely inoffensive. I did not know much about the family but from what I hear he was inseparable from his daughter when he wasn’t working.”

A neighbour, who said he was one of Martin’s best friends, said: “He was a really hard worker but he took on too much. He was milking over 50 cows a day and on top of that he had 20 suckler calves.

“He was in and out of the Cork University Hospital with heart trouble several times over the past few months and the doctors told him to cut back on his workload.

“But he never stopped going. He had a big farm and land rented all over the place. He helped one of the local vets part-time and he did artificial insemination in the area for farmers.

“He was 50 and there was a considerable age gap between him and Rebecca but they fell deeply in love and got married. Martin said having little Clarissa was the best thing that happened to him. He was a confirmed bachelor farmer and he never expected to have a family.

“But he was a great father. He adored that little girl. They were inseparable. You would see the two of them driving through the town and in the countryside. She was a beautiful little blonde girl, full of chat and life. He was such a gentle person,” said the friend. “I saw him last Monday and he definitely was not himself. He was out of sorts and appeared to be a bit jittery and excited. I really don’t think it was his health he was worried about. He told me he was having some problems but never went into the details.

“All I know is that he lived for his daughter, she meant everything to him.”

*Reception prayers for Martin and Clarissa McCarthy, whose relatives are expected to fly in from Los Angeles, will take place at St Mary’s Church, Schull, tomorrow at 12.30pm with requiem Mass at 2pm, followed by their burials in Schull Cemetery. House strictly private.

Desperate search

A huge land and sea search commenced shortly before midnight after the alarm, it was believed, was raised by Martin's wife and Clarissa's mother, Rebecca McCarthy.

Gardaí initially searched a number of outhouses at the family farm before alerting other emergency services.

The Baltimore RNLI lifeboat along with the Schull Inshore rescue and Goleen Coast Guard services were tasked to the area while Valentia Coast Guard co-ordinated the operation.

Schull fire brigade and a HSE ambulance were also at the scene along with SouthDoc and gardaí from Bantry.

An advanced paramedic continued attempted resuscitation efforts. It is believed the emergency services spent up to an hour trying to resuscitate the child after the recovery of her body from the water at 1.50am while her father's body was found at about 3am. The emergency services were stood down at about 3.45am

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