Father who died on beach in Melbourne while visiting daughter in Australia ‘touched so many lives’, funeral hears

Items brought to the altar included a candle as the lighting of candles was important to him, a family photograph, a hurl and Deenside Wheelers Cycling Club jersey and a grain sack representing his business

A Kilkenny father-of-three who died while holidaying in South Australia on new year’s day “touched so many lives” mourners at his requiem mass heard on Friday.

John Holland Snr from The Square, Ballyragget, Co Kilkenny died got into difficulty sea swimming on Anglesea Beach on the Great Ocean road just outside Melbourne.

The 63-year-old was visiting his daughter Emma who moved to Australia within the last year. Mr Holland was accompanied by friend David Stapleton for his Christmas break in Australia.

His oak coffin, adorned with the maroon and white colours of his beloved Ballyragget GAA teams was carried into St. Patrick’s Church in Ballyragget by six pallbearers to the strains of the hymn Abide with Me for the concelebrated 11am mass.


Items important to Mr Holland Snr, presented as symbols of his life, included a candle as the lighting of candles was important to him, a family photograph, a hurl and Deenside Wheelers Cycling Club jersey, a grain sack representing his business and a journal from his Gormanstown graduating class of 1977.

Fr Eamonn O’Gorman, Parish Priest in Ballyragget and Lisdowney, and close friend of Mr Holland Snr explained the “hugely popular man” travelled to Australia with a friend to visit his daughter Emma.

“He touched so many lives. When we reflect upon the tragedy that happened in Melbourne and John’s untimely death, the gallant efforts of Emma, David Stapleton, the rescue services and paramedics on the beach trying to revive John. There’s a time for giving birth and a time for dying,” explained Fr O’Gorman.

The parish priest recounted the many videos and photographs he would receive from his friends as did so many others while Mr Holland, a minor All-Ireland medal holder, was on holiday.

Fr O’Gorman continued: “His family and friends were so looking forward to his returning to Ireland after Christmas having spent it with Emma and David.

“But that unfortunately wasn’t to be, a great sadness, a numbness came over the whole community and is still very much with us,” he said.

Fr O’Gorman was asked by the Holland family to thank everyone “who helped them in so many different ways. They will never be forgotten. John was a great Ballyragget man. To Emma and David Stapleton who reached out to save him, it just wasn’t to be.”

The well-known grain merchant and cycling enthusiast lost his wife Marie in May 2022 following a battle with cancer.

Mr Holland who was due to arrive back in Ireland on January 4th after his holiday is survived by his children John Jnr, daughters Emma and Kate and sister Mai. Also John Jnr’s fiancee Deirdre Phelan and Kate’s fiance Kevin Kelly, grandchildren Andy and Nell, extended family and a wide circle of friends.

Mr Holland was laid to rest beside his late wife Máire in St Finnan’s cemetery following his funeral mass.

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