Ancient chants ring out at send-off fit for a lord

It was Brideshead Revisited meets Gregorian chants — a send-off fit for a lord.

Peter Ralfe Harrington Evans-Freke, better known as Lord Carbery (or Baron Carbery, if you like), was yesterday laid to rest in his family’s mausoleum at Castlefreke, Rathbarry, Co Cork.

The funeral bore all the trappings of an Anglo-Irish, fervently conservative Catholic who wanted to go out in style with Latin and Gregorian chants ringing in mourners’ ears.

However, his swansong was nearly scuppered by a top dog who perceived himself to be somewhat higher up the gentry’s pecking order.

A stubborn King Charles spaniel had earlier decided to lord it by lying in the middle of the road outside St Michael’s Church — with the result that passing motorists sort of doffed the cap by driving gingerly around it.

Out of respect the dog eventually legged it when he saw the funeral cortege approaching — something which would have no doubt amused the 11th Baron of Carbery.

His coffin arrived in a horse-drawn, glass-sided hearse, which was made in London in 1880. The carriage drivers wore the traditional undertakers clothing of the period.

The Dutch gelderlander horses Tommy and Jimmy, looking resplendent in shining livery and sporting black plumes on their heads, delivered the 92-year-old’s body to the church and following requiem Mass, returned it to the mausoleum — the first head of the family to be interred there since the sixth baron, John, in 1845.

Peter’s second wife, Lady Elisabeth, wearing a black lace shawl over her head, led his three sons, two daughters, and other relatives into the church where the coffin was blessed by chief celebrant Dominican Fr Boniface Hill from Downside Abbey, Somerset.

He said the deceased and all his sons had been educated at that most prestigious Catholic school and he had been asked by the family, along with Fr Philip Tierney from Glenstal Abbey and local parish priest Fr Patrick McCarthy, to conduct Mass in Latin.

Gregorian chants were performed by soprano Margaret Collins and tenor Ryan Morgan, accompanied by organist Frank Buckley.

The entrance hymn was a public school-type favourite, ‘To Be A Pilgrim’ by Vaughan Williams.

Michael Evans-Freke, Peter’s eldest son and now 12th Baron of Carbery, delivered the first reading and his youngest son, Stephen, used a John Keats poem on death for the second reading.

A moving and often light-hearted eulogy was delivered by the late baron’s middle son, John.

He described his father as “a devoted family man” who was brought up in Castlefreke and assumed the title of lord when his own uncle died in 1970.

“He was a generous-hearted man who was kind to everyone, he had time for everyone. He was an incurable romantic who had a huge infectious laugh which will always be remembered.”

John said his father — a Knight of Malta who was an only child — was a staunch Anglo-Irish Catholic who had left behind a his second wife, who he married in 2007, and with whom he’d had “many happy times”.

He paid tribute to Lady Elisabeth, especially for the care she’d “tirelessly given” his father when he became ill a year ago. He died in London on Jul 28.

The last post was sounded as the 11th baron’s body was interred in the family mausoleum. This was in recognition of his service in the British army’s royal engineers during the Second World War.

In 1941, shortly after marrying his first wife, Joyzelle, who predeceased him in 2005, he was sent to fight the Japanese.

As a sapper, Peter fought for a year behind enemy lines with a special commando team blowing up bridges, dams, and railway lines to halt the Japanese advance through Burma and onto the Indian border. It was four years before he returned home.

Old soldiers never die — they simply fade away to the sounds of Latin and Gregorian chants.

More in this section