The white coffin of baby Mary Connors looked tiny in the hearse that was more suited to a casket three times its length and twice its width, but her little cousin did his best to fill the space around it with kisses, writes Caroline O’Doherty
Miley Connors, lifted up by his father to see inside, reached out to touch the coffin, blessed himself with both his right and his left hand, and then blew extravagant kisses all around it.
He did the same at the coffins of Mary’s brothers, Jim and Christy, cousins and playmates he would never see again. The siblings were playing together in the garden of their uncle John Lynch the day before the fire that wiped them out.
John recalled watching them, tears choking his words as the memory came back. “We had a lovely day,” he told he mourners who gathered at the Church of the Ascension in Balally, south Dublin, to say their farewells.
And then their dad, his brother-in-law Thomas, wanting to return the hospitality, invited John up to his home at the halting site on Glenamuck Road.
“We went up and later I said goodnight to them. We had a lovely day,” he said again, the tears catching him once more.
“When I left that night and woke up and heard the next morning, I did not believe it. I thought it was a hoax call.
“Then I realised all my family was gone. My brothers, my sister, my sisters-in-law, my brother-in-law, my nephews and nieces. The whole lot gone, in one go.”
His tears were for his sister, Sylvia, 25; her husband, Thomas, 27; their sons, Jim, five, and Christy, three, and their five-month-old daughter, Mary, who all perished in the fire 12 days previously and whose funeral Mass was held yesterday, and also for his brothers, Willy, 25, and Jimmy, 39; Willy’s pregnant fiancée, Tara Gilbert, 27, and their two girls, Jodie, nine, and Kelsey, four, who were buried on Tuesday.
They were also for Syliva and Thomas’s surviving children, Michael, seven, and Tom, four, both now orphaned in the most traumatic of circumstances, too traumatic for them to attend the ceremony.
Tom, the congregation heard, owed his life to the bravery of his 15-year-old uncle, also John, who risked his life to pluck his little nephew from the blaze.
His heroism was a source of immense pride to the grieving families, said chief celebrant Fr Derek Farrell, parish priest of the Parish of the Travelling People.
It would be something they could cling to, just as they also clung to the memories of those they had lost. Sylvia, was, her mother-in-law, JoJo, said, “the best girl you could ask for”.
Thomas, devoted dad, was in charge of the daily school runs and mad about his growing family. Jim, so close to JoJo and his grandad, also Jim, was a lovely, happy boy.
Christy, by times quiet but full of life, was gracious in yielding his status as the babbie to his new baby sister. Mary, the little girl Sylvia had hoped for, was treasured by all.
Their hearses left the church in order of their ages, detouring to pass by the ruins of their home on Glenamuck Road, before travelling to Co Wexford for burial.
The coffins were surrounded by flowers now as well as kisses, a Minnie Mouse arrangement for baby Mary and a teddy in pink bows, with matching bears in blue ribbons for Jim and Christy.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved