Lives Lost to Covid-19: Eugene Ferry – natural entertainer with gift for friendship

Former Derry City footballer and bakery worker possessed a strong work ethic

Lives Lost: Eugene Ferry from Derry, 1958-2020.

Lives Lost: Eugene Ferry from Derry, 1958-2020.

 

This article is one of a series about people who have died with coronavirus in Ireland and among the diaspora. You can read more of them here. If you would like a friend or family member included in the series, please email liveslost@irishtimes.com

Eugene Ferry

1958-2020

Eugene Ferry was always making people laugh. “You would have come in and he’d be sitting there in his chair, and he’d have you laughing. Anything you said, he would have made a joke of it. He was just a wild case,” says his wife, Lorraine. “He was just a big jolly fella’, full of life. He was loved alright, by everyone.”

Eugene was the life and soul of the party and was well known as a natural entertainer in bars in Derry and in Downings in Donegal, where he had a caravan.

“He would have said to somebody in his company, ‘Watch this’, says Eugene, “and he would have sung a song. The barman would have said, go ahead and sing on, and he would have said, ‘But my throat’s dry’, to get a free drink.

“It wasn’t his job, he wasn’t a professional singer, but he could sing, and whenever he sang people gathered round and he would have entertained.”

From Rinmore Drive in the Creggan area of Derry, Eugene was the 10th child in a family of 15 siblings.

He always had a love of football and played for Derry City in the years before its entry into the League of Ireland in 1985. Football was in his blood – his father had also played for Derry City – and his son recalls going to watch him taking part in local leagues, when he played centre midfield or defence.

When the team joined the League Eugene became a supporter, travelling with his brothers and in-laws to watch them play, and even managing to secure tickets to a few cup finals.

However, when his son Eugene began playing for Derry City, Eugene stopped going to matches. “He felt like he would have been bad luck, but he always kept an eye out for results,” explains Eugene.

Bakery

He spent most of his working life at the Mother’s Pride bakery in Derry, where he was employed in the hygiene department. “He went in for six months in 1977 and retired when it closed in 2000, so he went in for six months and lasted 23 years,” says Lorraine.

They were together for 42 years. “I was 18 when I met him,” remembers Lorraine, “and from day one, that was it. We got married in 1984.”

The importance of doing a day’s work was one of the many lessons he taught his children from a young age, says Eugene. “It didn’t matter who you were, he treated you the same, and he instilled in us about being respectful to other people.

“He told us, never miss a day of your work, you never miss your work for anything, so he had that workmanlike ethic.”

One of his great joys in life was the family’s caravan in Downings, on the Donegal coast.

“He would go away on March 17th and I wouldn’t have seen him ’til September,” remembers Lorraine. “I went up with his messages at the weekends and when I was off for the summer I would have spent it with him, he just loved it there.

“He loved the quiet on his own and the peace, and he was able to go out for walks. The beach was just up the street from us so he would have gone up there for an hour and just sat looking over the bay.

“That was his life, and everybody knew him down there.”

After his death from Covid-19 in November, less than a month after his 62nd birthday, the local priest led people in prayer in the beach in his memory and wrote his name and “RIP” on the sand.

“It goes to show you how well thought of he was,” says Eugene. “There’s not many Derry men gets accepted by Donegal people, he was like part of the furniture down there, and people looked out for him.”

In the months since his father’s death, the many tributes the family has received have been a great source of comfort.

“It was such a shock to us that people in the Downings would do something like that, and there have been so many people getting together and paying tributes. I’ve never seen so much positive said about somebody.”

Eugene is survived by his wife Lorraine, children Eugene and Elaine, and four grandchildren.

Covid-19: Lives Lost

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