Community mourns father and daughter
Gardai at the McCarthy farmhouse near Ballydehob, Co Cork. A funeral Mass was held for Martin and his daughter Clarissa today. Photograph: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision
The geodesic domes at the summit of Mount Gabriel were still shrouded in mist at midday today as hundreds of mourners gathered in Schull in West Cork to pay their last respects to local farmer, Martin McCarthy and his three-year-old daughter, Clarissa.
Scores of mourners had begun gathering at St Mary’s Church in Schull from before noon to receive the remains of Mr McCarthy (50) and his daughter where they were brought for prayers prior to 2pm requiem mass at the church where they were regular attenders at mass..
A constant file of men and women of all ages, some deeply upset, made their way up the centre aisle of the church to sympathise with Mr McCarthy’s grieving widow, Rebecca, after the single wooden coffin containing her husband and daughter was brought before the altar.
Framed photos of Mr McCarthy and of little Clarissa holding a flower were placed upon the coffin along with a cuddly white sheep while beside it a white floral tribute made in the shape of a teddybear rested on the ground before the front pew where Rebecca McCarthy sat.
Visibly distraught throughout the funeral mass, she was regularly hugged and comforted by her mother, Linda - "Gammy Linda" to little Clarissa - who had made the long journey from Los Angeles, where Ms McCarthy had been born and reared, to be with her daughter.
Also grieving deeply was Mr McCarthy’s only sister, Hester O’Brien and her husband, Billy along with their two nieces, Rachel and Lisa, as well as other relatives and friends from Ballydehob, where Mr McCarthy had grown up on the family farm at Foilnamuck.
Chief celebrant, Fr Anthony O’Mahony, who had performed the last rites on the father and daughter after their bodies were recovered from the sea at Audley Cove near their home at Foilnamuck in the early hours of Wednesday morning, spoke movingly of the terrible loss.
"We never know what goes on in a person’s head - if we did, maybe we wouldn’t be here," said Fr O’Mahony as he remembered the popular farmer and the daughter to whom he was devoted and who clearly lit up his life with her arrival in 2009.
"Clarissa spent all her short life at Foilnamuck and in her three and a half years on this earth, brought great joy and great happiness, not just to Martin and Rebecca but to the lives of all the people who met her," he said.
Fr O’Mahony told the packed church with mourners spilling out into the church yard that although God "did not call Clarissa and Martin", now that they were with him, "he will not turn away from them but will look after them".
"An awful lot of God's work has been going on since Tuesday night and the early hours of Wednesday morning when people first went searching for Clarissa and Martin, and all the ways people have been there for you and the family over the past few days," he said.
Ms McCarthy, in a desperately touching moment, stroked the coffin with her hand as she made her way to the lectern. Fighting back tears and struggling to keep her composure, she read Psalm 23, The Lord is My Shepherd.
Mr McCarthy’s brother-in-law, Billy O’Brien, told the congregation how devoted Mr McCarthy was to his daughter, and that they were all struggling to comprehend the enormity of the tragedy which had befallen the family.
"Having gathered here at this very sad time no words or thoughts can begin to comprehend the tragedy we have experienced the last few days. On behalf of Hester and the whole family we want to thank the people that helped us in so many ways."
"Even though this is such a sad occasion, can I ask you to remember Martin as a kind, compassionate and helpful neighbour and to remember Clarissa as a bright, happy child who brought so much joy and happiness to her parents."
After Mass, the coffin was carried shoulder high through the Main Street in Schull before making its way to St Mary’s Cemetery on the Colla Road where, amid brightening sunshine, Mr McCarthy and his daughter were laid to rest in the family grave overlooking a calm and peaceful Schull Harbour.