'Remember Martin as a kind compassionate, helpful neighbour'

Rebecca McCarthy and relatives follow the coffin containing her husband and daughter, Martin and Clarissa McCarthy, in Schull, Co Cork, yesterday. photograph: michael mac sweeney/ provision

Rebecca McCarthy and relatives follow the coffin containing her husband and daughter, Martin and Clarissa McCarthy, in Schull, Co Cork, yesterday. photograph: michael mac sweeney/ provision

Sat, Mar 9, 2013, 00:00

The domes at the summit of Mount Gabriel were still shrouded in mist at midday yesterday 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.

The bodies of the father and daughter were recovered from the sea near their home in Ballydehob early on Wednesday. Mr McCarthy had left a note for his wife, saying “Gone to heaven”.

Scores of mourners started gathering at St Mary’s Church in Schull from before noon to receive the remains of Mr McCarthy (50) and his daughter when they were brought for prayers before 2pm requiem Mass at the church where they were regular attenders.

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 widow, Rebecca, after the single wooden coffin containing her husband and daughter was brought to the altar.

Framed photographs of Mr McCarthy and Clarissa holding a flower were placed on the coffin along with a cuddly white sheep, while beside it a white floral tribute made in the shape of a teddy bear rested on the ground before the front pew where Rebecca McCarthy sat.

During the Mass, she was regularly hugged and comforted by her mother Linda, who had travelled from Los Angeles, where Ms McCarthy was born and reared, to be with her daughter.

‘Terrible loss’

Also present 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 given the last rites to 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 had clearly lit up his life with her arrival in 2009. “Clarissa spent all her short life at Foilnamuck and in her 3½ 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 mourners 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.”

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.

“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 buried in the family grave.