‘Pat Hume did so much...Derry people know that, and remember that’

Influence of wife of late former SDLP leader highlighted by mourners at funeral

Pat Hume  arrives with family members at St Eugene’s Cathedral, Derry. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/ Getty

Pat Hume arrives with family members at St Eugene’s Cathedral, Derry. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/ Getty

 

It is not only John Hume who has secured his place in the history of this island, Fr Paul Farren told mourners at his funeral on Wednesday, but also his wife Pat.

“When the history of Ireland is written, if Pat Hume’s name is not beside John’s, it will be an incomplete history,” he said in his homily.

There seems little chance of that. They had been a partnership for 60 years; she was a constant presence, from her role as the manager of his constituency office in the early years to his advocate and protector during the final years of his illness.

“She was with John in everything,” said the SDLP leader, Colum Eastwood. “In the first election he fought, Pat was by his side, and when John was away, somebody had to be here, running the constituency office, looking after the house and the children, and anybody who needed help.

“The people of Derry see her as a saint, and she contributed an enormous amount to the peace process in Ireland.”

John met Pat in Borderland, one of the famous “ballrooms of romance” just over the Border from Derry in Co Donegal and the “starting point for many a Derry family”, as their son John Jr noted.

They married in 1960, and enjoyed “a December honeymoon in a freezing B&B in Gardiner Street in Dublin. Thankfully for Mum, the quality of the accommodation got better as the marriage went on.”

Yet Pat often had her work cut out. “None of us remember him changing nappies, or indeed putting many – any? – dinners on the table,” John Jr recalled.

But it was both his parents, Pat as well as John, whom he credited for teaching “us all our values and [giving] us all our moral compass. And for that we will be forever in their debt,” he said.

Local respect

So too are many others. Local people watching the funeral from outside the cathedral gates were keen to remember Pat as well as John. One woman described how she had been a pupil of Pat’s; another was a friend. “Pat Hume is a great lady,” was an oft-repeated remark. “Pat Hume did so much,” said another. “The Derry people know that, and remember that.”

So too did Fr Farren remember her in his homily; prayers were offered “especially for you, Pat”.

She had “stood behind John to defend him and support him”, Fr Farren said, and “beside him to love him and accompany him even in the most difficult times and when his health failed and his mind got weaker she walked in front of him to lead him”.

“Pat encircled John with love, compassion and support and it was your presence that made his work possible.”