Mourners pay tribute to ‘gentle giant’ killed in Killarney launderette blast

James Gleeson's wife Grace and son Eoin during the funeral in Killarney yesterday. Picture: Domnick Walsh/Eye Focus

The irony of how a gentle person who loved peace and nature could die in a terrifying gas explosion that ripped through his launderette was reflected upon by mourners at his dignified funeral service yesterday.

They heard a priest and the brother of the late James Gleeson, 59, speak touchingly of his easy ways, his love of family, sense of caring for others and his deep-felt attachment to his native Killarney, Co Kerry.

“He has gone from this earthly paradise he greatly enjoyed to one that is eternal and more beautiful” — words of consolation from his brother, Donagh.

Upwards of 1,000 people were in St Mary’s Cathedral, Killarney, for the requiem Mass for James, concelebrated by seven priests, with Fr Kieran O’Brien as chief concelebrant.

In a homily, Fr O’Brien recalled the shock that gripped townspeople when news of the blast spread early on Saturday and how concerns for James grew as the morning went on.

“He was one of our own, no ordinary person, a gentle giant who always thought of others, such a nice person, so kind, sociable, loveable, a person true to his word, work, and friends. So popular,’’ he said.

The priest also spoke of him as a devoted family man, always with his wife, Grace, and son, Eoin.

“They did things tog-ether. They travelled, walked, cycled, talked things out, a happy family together. And that’s the way things should be,’’ said Fr O’Brien.

“Everything James did in life was done out of love. Love for his family. He loved life, he loved to bring happiness to others, he loved his work, he loved his town. And it was his love of Killarney that set him up in business.’’

James lived simply and was outgoing, but also private and happy surrounded by family and friends, cycling in Killarney National Park and by the lakes, he added.

Before Mass, Donagh Gleeson went to the altar to thank the congregation for coming to ‘’a sad celebration of a life well lived’’ and to the community for its support.

He thanked businesses whose premises were damaged by the explosion for their generosity of spirit and hoped they would soon be back in operation, and also paid tribute to the emergency services for their work at the scene.

Mr Gleeson said it was ironic that the life of someone so gentle and dignified should end so violently.

Blue-shirted members of Killarney Athletic soccer club, of which James was a founder member; Killarney Rotary club; and Eoin Gleeson’s Leaving Cert classmates at St Brendan’s College formed a guard of honour as the cortege left the cathedral grounds.

James was laid to rest in Aghadoe Cemetery overlooking his beloved Lakes of Killarney.

Investigations are continuing into the cause of the explosion at Brewery Lane, where the launderette was located. It is stilled sealed off. Repairs are continuing on neighbouring buildings damaged by the blast, mainly glass installation.


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