Hundreds watch online as mourners bid farewell to songwriter Shay Healy

‘Wild flowers for the wild child’ laid on coffin of veteran RTÉ presenter who died aged 78

“Wild flowers for the wild child” were laid on the wicker coffin of Shay Healy as the songwriter was laid to rest on Tuesday following his death at the age of 78.

Almost 1,000 people watched online as a small number of family and friends gathered in the Victorian Chapel in Mount Jerome, Harold’s Cross in Dublin, in line with coronavirus funeral restrictions.

The Eurovision-winning songwriter and veteran RTÉ presenter died last Friday at St Vincent's hospital after a long battle with Parkinson's disease.

He and his wife Dymphna had two sons, and she predeceased him in 2017.

Among the mourners was Mr Healy's long-time friend and musical collaborator Paul Brady. As the curtain was drawn over the coffin, Mr Brady played Behind the Veil, a song the two wrote together during their occasional song-writing sessions.

“We made a promise to each other that whoever went first, the other will sing it at his funeral.”

Mr Brady then joined in a rendition of When You Become Stardust Too, a song written by Mr Healy which he first performed seven years ago.

“Dry away your tears now / Our souls go on forever / And maybe we will meet again / When you become stardust too,” the musicians sang.

‘Wonderful life’

During the service two of Mr Healy’s sisters placed wild flowers on the coffin, saying they were “wild flowers for the wild child”.

Riverdance producer John McColgan said Mr Healy “had a wonderful life”. Parkinson’s diminished him, Mr McColgan said, but “up until the last year or so, most of the time, his mind was very alert”.

He described going to visit him at the Four Ferns Nursing Home in Foxrock during the pandemic and having to see him through a window.

“Sometimes he was really clear and sometimes he wasn’t,” he said. Mr Healy had written a musical during this period about Dublin ballads which Mr McColgan tried to help get made.

“He was compulsive about creating, compulsive about making stuff, compulsive about getting songs down,” Mr McColgan said. “He loved being in the music business. He loved musicians.”

Mr McColgan said that despite that “awful Parkinson’s”, he could really communicate with Mr Healy in the final days.

“Whenever we said goodbye to each other I’d say ‘I love you Shay.’ And he’d say ‘I love you John.’ There was no embarrassment or coyness about it. It just meant a lot to say it to him.”

Mr Healy was “really quite a unique individual”, Mr McColgan said. “I really will miss him. Slán Shay.”

Mr Healy is survived by his sons Oisín and Fionán, his five siblings and his six grandchildren.

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime Correspondent of The Irish Times