Couple who died in Cork house fire were ‘soul mates’ and son’s ‘best friends’, joint funeral hears

John and Gabrielle O’Donnell died in blaze at their home on Lower Glanmire Road on same day granddaughter was born

A man who celebrated the birth of his daughter in Qatar, only to lose his parents in a house fire in his native Cork several hours later, has told their joint funeral mass that they were not only each others’ “soul mates” but his “best friends”.

John and Gabrielle O’Donnell died when a blaze broke out in their picturesque terraced home on Lower Glanmire Road on the outskirts of Cork City on April 4th.

The elderly couple had been overjoyed that day having been informed by their son Mark that his wife had given birth to a girl in Doha. Mark O’Donnell works as a pilot and lives in the country with his wife Grace. Neighbours had been invited in for tea and cake to discuss the new arrival of baby Hannah.

Mark told mourners at St Patrick’s Church in Lower Glanmire Road on Wednesday that four generations of his family had lived in the terraced house in which his “two amazing” parents died.


“It won’t stop there. We will rebuild it. And the family home and our family history and the many stories of Granny Gay and Granddad John will go on and I will pass them on to my daughter.”

Mark said his parents met in the 1970s when his father, a native of Achill Island in Co Mayo, was working in Cork in the steel industry. He said once his parents met, they were never really apart again.

He said that John and Gabrielle loved music and GAA.

“They both have a Cork and Mayo jersey here today. I did however have the last laugh. My mother has the Mayo jersey and my father has the Cork jersey.”

Mark described the death of his parents as being not only a huge loss for their family but for the tight-knit and supportive community in the Lower Glanmire Road.

He said that he and his brothers Damien and John were extremely grateful for the huge outpouring of support received not only in Cork, but in their father’s native Achill Island.

He thanked gardaí and members of the fire brigade for their efforts when the alarm was raised and in the days since the “substantial fire” broke out.

He asked members of the congregation to give the emergency services and the gardaí a round of applause for their “amazing work”.

The Mass was celebrated by Fr Jilson Kokkandathail CC with prayers also being offered by Bishop Emeritus John Buckley.

The blaze is being treated as a tragic accident. The couple were located close together a few hours after the fire broke out.