Tributes paid to Cork undertaker and businessman Val O’Connor

Well-known figure in Cork’s cultural life, and founder of funeral directors’ group, died aged 90

Val O’Connor was  central to bringing Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli to Cork in 2005 when the city was European Capital of Culture.

Val O’Connor was central to bringing Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli to Cork in 2005 when the city was European Capital of Culture.

 

Tributes have been paid to Val O’Connor, a prominent figure both in the funeral business in Ireland and in Cork’s commercial life, who died aged of 90 following a short illness.

A founding member of the Irish Association of Funeral Directors, Mr O’Connor operated the well-known undertaking firm, O’Connor Bros Funeral Home at North Gate Bridge in Cork.

He was a third-generation funeral director, following in the footsteps of his grandfather Thomas F O’Connor, who founded the firm on Blarney Street in 1887.

The business subsequently passed to John Francis and Thomas Finbarr O’Connor who operated from premises at Shandon Street before the late Mr O’Connor moved it to the North Gate Bridge.

He was an innovator in the funeral service sector and was credited with introducing the funeral home concept into Ireland in 1967, replacing hospital morgues and family homes which had been used for removals.

A devout Catholic, he was centrally involved in fundraising for the redevelopment of the St Mary and St Anne’s Cathedral – the North Cathedral – in Cork in 1996.

Papal Knighthood

Mr O’Connor’s role in chairing the fundraising for the cathedral’s redevelopment was recognised in 2001 by Pope John Paul II, who awarded him the Papal Knighthood of the Equestrian Order of St Sylvester.

He was also very involved in the cultural life of Cork, serving on the Cork Opera House board and he was central to bringing Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli to Leeside in 2005 when Cork was European Capital of Culture.

The concert proved a resounding success with 10,000 opera lovers thronging the main square at Collins Barracks on a balmy summer evening to hear Mr Bocelli and Italian soprano Paola Sanguinetti perform.

“We believed it could be done. We went ahead independently of 2005 because this designation was our chance and our belief was that it would never happen again,” Mr O’Connor later told The Irish Times.

Mr O’Connor’s firm marked its 130th anniversary in 2017 and the following year he was invited to Cork City Hall where he was honoured with a reception from the then Lord Mayor, Tony Fitzgerald.

Speaking to The Echo on Thursday night, Cllr Fitzgerald said“Val will be remembered for his kind and personal support to those who were bereaved. He had a warm friendly engagement with everyone he met.”

Mr O’Connor, who died at Marymount Hospice in Cork on Wednesday, is survived by his wife Annette, children Laura, Finbarr, Sally-Ann, and Lisa, and his grandchildren Ian, Alison, Shane and Jenna.

The removal of remains takes place today at 3pm to The Cathedral of St Mary & St Anne (North Cathedral). Requiem Mass will be held on Monday at 1pm, with funeral afterwards to St Finbarr’s Cemetery.