Coronavirus: Co Tyrone couple buried together after dying 20 hours apart

Nephew of William and Madge Finlay says ‘silent killer’ has ‘robbed us of our loved ones’

Two hearses carrying the  bodies of William and Madge Finlay, who died from Covid-19 within 20 hours of each other, in the rural village of Ardstraw in Co Tyrone on Saturday. Photograph: John McVitty

Two hearses carrying the bodies of William and Madge Finlay, who died from Covid-19 within 20 hours of each other, in the rural village of Ardstraw in Co Tyrone on Saturday. Photograph: John McVitty

 

A Co Tyrone husband and wife have been buried together after both dying from Covid-19 within a period of 20 hours.

William and Madge Finlay, from Ardstraw, were married for more than 50 years and were said to be inseparable. Mr Finlay (84) served in the Ulster Defence Regiment during the Troubles and Ms Finlay (82) was a carer.

They died at the Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry and were buried without a funeral being held on Saturday. Mourners, observing social distancing rules, lined the roads to pay their respects as hearses carrying the couple’s bodies drove side by side through the rural village.

William and Madge Finlay were married for 50 years. ‘One wouldn’t have lived without the other,’ said their nephew Robin Finlay
William and Madge Finlay were married for 50 years. ‘One wouldn’t have lived without the other,’ said their nephew Robin Finlay
I am angry about where it came from and how it got here so quickly

“This silent killer has robbed us of our loved ones,” said Robin Finlay, their nephew. “We don’t know where this Covid-19 came from or how it would end up in a wee place like Ardstraw, but we are shocked that they are gone.”

The couple’s carer, a family friend, has been hospitalised after testing positive for the virus and Robin Finlay said his wife, Andrea, who comforted Madge before her death, is now self-isolating after developing minor symptoms.

Tested

He said William took ill last week and was admitted to hospital, tested and confirmed to have had contracted coronavirus.

“Madge wasn’t well on the Friday night, she didn’t want to be left alone, so my wife stayed with her. But her health was going down too; her oxygen levels went down and we couldn’t get them back up,” Robin Finlay said.

“We phoned for an ambulance and when she went into hospital she was tested and she came back with Covid-19. Then the carer was tested and now she’s got it.”

He said he took “some comfort” from the fact that the couple died hours apart.

“There was about 20 hours between them and while they went together I still can’t really understand it. It’s hard, it’s hard to work out why or what,” he said.

“One wouldn’t have lived without the other, and we said that when Madge died. If William came out of it then it would have taken him too. They were in each other’s pockets.”

Robin Finlay said the situation around the burial was unusual and that “not being able to move about and shake someone’s hand or give a person a hug was very hard”.

He said it would take a while for the family to come to terms with the fact the couple had been lost to the pandemic.

“I am angry about where it came from and how it got here so quickly,” he said. “You expect people to die of old age; maybe heart attacks, strokes, or something. You never expect a thing like Covid-19 to happen.”