Several people who believe they are the long lost relations of an Irish man who died alone in London without any known family living in the UK and Ireland have made contact with his funeral organisers.
Joesph Tuohy, 87, originally from Toomevara, in Co Tipperary passed away during the summer after spending the majority of his working life there.
Since an appeal was made for members of the public, especially anyone with a connection to Tipperary, to attend his funeral Mass several people in Tipp and surrounding counties have come forward wanting to help with funeral arrangements.
Mr Tuohy, who never returned to Ireland, died in a nursing home in Islington, north London, with his remains being cremated.
The search for relatives and for mourners to attend his funeral began when Margaret de Brun, from Sandycove, Co Dublin, a volunteer at St Joseph’s Pastoral Centre, which raises money for the Friends of the Forgotten Irish Emigrants, received a letter detailing the hope that this man could be brought home.
Brian Boylan, who runs St Gabriel’s Homeless Centre, in London was made Mr Tuohy’s next of kin by Islington Council when he passed away. He decided to write to Mrs de Brun to help bring him home.
The final arrangements have now been organised and Mr Tuohy’s ashes will be buried in a private ceremony several days after his funeral Mass in consecrated ground in Toomevara.
The funeral is being held at September 27 in Glasthule, Co Dublin.
Hundreds of people have made contact with Mrs de Brun and Mr Boylan wanting to pay their respects at his Mass. Mrs de Brun has since discovered, through her own detective work that Mr Tuohy was born on May 16, 1936 in Toomevara and christened there two weeks later.
“His mother became pregnant while working in New York. She was alone and abandoned but managed to return home to Ireland. He told me they had a special bond he never forgot. She was a loving mother who worked very hard on various farms cooking", Mr Boylan explained.
“She protected him as best she could and he felt secure he told me. He felt very loved by her and knew nothing of the bad feelings felt towards his mother being unmarried. She shielded him from all of that.
She was subsequently placed in a Magdalene Laundry in Limerick under a different name, which was a common place practice for authorities once girls entered their care.
Mrs de Brun explained how she came to be involved in the stranger’s funeral.
"When the letter came through the post box little did I know the sad story I would read about. I know very little about this man but I think as a forgotten Irish emigrant he shouldn’t go to his final resting place without people around him. His passing shouldn’t fall on deaf ears."
Mrs de Brun added: “I’ve received hundreds of phonecalls and emails from people all over the country and in the UK - several saying they think they are relatives of Mr Tuohy's. We’ve had numerous requests to hold a Mass and burial in various places but we have decided his burial should be private as he was.
(We) would love anyone who wants to attend the funeral Mass in Glasthule to do so...It will be a very dignified ceremony.
Mr Boylan had intended on spreading the elderly man’s ashes in the sea or graveyard somewhere in Ireland prior to making contact with Mrs Brown.