London Irish: Appeal for mourners as native son returns to rest
The late Joseph Tuohy ‘symbolic of a hidden suffering - we should never forget our people’
The late Joseph Tuohy (right), pictured with Brian Boylan. “Before he died, he told me he wanted his ashes to be put in a black bin bag and buried in a garden. But we couldn’t let that happen.”
Joseph Tuohy, who died alone in a north London nursing home this summer, was taken from his single mother in Tipperary when just five, spending the next decade in religious-run orphanages. After emigrating to London in his late teens, he never returned to Ireland.
Later this month, however, the Toomevara, Co Tipperary man, who was said to have been very private, will make a final journey to Ireland when his cremated remains are brought for burial to St Joseph’s Church in Glasthule, Co Dublin, on September 27th.
Now, an appeal has been made for mourners to attend so that his “last goodbye will not fall on deaf ears”. Urging those who can to attend, Brian Boylan, a former Columban Fathers priest who was a friend of Mr Tuohy’s for more than 40 years, said: “He was one of the finest human beings that I ever met, full of compassion.”
Speaking from London, Mr Boylan, who runs St Gabriel’s Homeless Centre, said his friend, who died in a nursing home in Islington, had borne the scars of an upbringing in Ireland during the 1930s that was “very different” from today.
“His mother became pregnant while working in New York. She was alone and abandoned but managed to return home to Ireland. He told me they had a special bond he never forgot. She was a loving mother who worked very hard on various farms cooking,” said Mr Boylan.“But Ireland of that time was not a place to be an unmarried mother, and the various authorities were just waiting for a slip-up by her so he could be put into care.”
In time, the authorities had their opportunity.
Playing near the fire
“One day while at a farmer’s house Joe was playing close to an open fire. He slipped and burnt his leg. As a result his mother was brought to court and Joe was taken from her,” said Mr Boylan.
“From the age of 14 to 16 Joe worked as a tailor in the St Joseph’s Industrial School in Clonmel, Co Tipperary. He was only one of two boys there who passed the then Primary Cert. A lay teacher asked the religious order if Joe could sit the Post Office exams, but they refused.
“Joe was one of the brightest people I knew. Even as he became more confused with age he was still able to beat the contestants on Channel 4’s TV quiz show Countdown,” Mr Boylan added.
He visited Mr Tuohy several times a week. “Before he died, he told me he wanted his ashes to be put in a black bin bag and buried in a garden. But we couldn’t let that happen. Following his death there were no prayers, there was no holy water sprinkled over him, nor were there any Mass cards.
“This man is symbolic of a hidden suffering, and we should never forget our people. We come from a great people who are loyal to one another. They deserve our respect.
“I know Joe would take solace from the fact that his life story, which was full of pain, may help others on their own and encourage them to seek help.”
Mr Boylan thanked Margaret Brown, a volunteer at St Joseph’s Pastoral Centre, for helping to arrange the return of the ashes.
“It would be wonderful to see as many mourners as possible at his funeral,” he said.
Mr Boylan had intended to spread his friend’s ashes at sea prior to making contact with Mrs Brown.
A funeral Mass is to be held at 10am on September 27th in St Joseph’s Church, Glasthule, Co Dublin.
Fr Denis Kennedy will officiate, with Quinn Funeral Home providing undertaking duties. Organist Ronan Murray and soprano Maria Fitzgerald are to perform at the ceremony. Mr Tuohy’s ashes will then be brought to Tipperary.