Journalist’s funeral told of a life ‘lived to the full’

His ‘gifts as writer, musician and singer, husband, father and grandfather’ recalled

Mickey, Cormac and Cathal Mac Connell at the funeral of their brother, Seán Mac Connell, at the Church of the Divine Word, Rathfarnham. Photograph: Frank Miller

Mickey, Cormac and Cathal Mac Connell at the funeral of their brother, Seán Mac Connell, at the Church of the Divine Word, Rathfarnham. Photograph: Frank Miller

 


The funeral took place in Dublin yesterday of former Agricultural Correspondent of The Irish Times Seán Mac Connell

His death earlier in the week at the age of 66, had been “sudden”and “devastating”, his son Eoghan said. “Dad had so much life in him. . . no one expected this event.” Support for the family in recent days was “a great comfort”, he said.

In his homily, Fr Jim Mulherin OSM said that “although we know that Seán is already safely home with the Lord, we who remain still struggle to find meaning in what has happened – and happened so unexpectedly”.

Readings were “chosen by Seán’s family to reflect his life, his love of nature and creativity”, he said. Ecclesiastes, read by former Sunday Tribune editor Noirín Hegarty, “tells us that there is a season for everything. One who knew about farming and wrote about it would best appreciate that way of seeing life.”

Though “Seán’s life was short by modern standards”, his “many gifts as writer, musician and singer, as husband, father and grandfather” meant he “lived life to the full”. The large number of people attending the funeral was “a great tribute to him”, he said.

Chief mourners were Seán Mac Connell’s widow Pat, their children Kate, Siobhán and Eoghan, his brothers Cormac, Cathal and Mickey. President Michael D Higgins was represented by aide de camp Capt Bernard Behan.

Among the attendance were Irish Times editor Kevin O’Sullivan and former editor Conor Brady, as well as very many former colleagues from the paper, and from the Irish Press where he had also worked.

Also there was Alison Healy, his successor at The Irish Times; Aideen Sheehan, farming correspondent of the Irish Independent; and former agricultural correspondents in other news media, including Joe O’Brien (RTÉ), Willie Dillon (Irish Independent), Chris Dooley (Irish Press, now foreign editor of The Irish Times), and Ray Ryan (Irish Examiner).

There too were Maireád Lavery and Pat O’Keeffe of the Irish Farmers Journal, and its chief executive, Matt Dempsey, as well as Ger Scully and Gearóid Keegan of the Tullamore Tribune.

A large Irish Farmers’ Association contingent included president John Bryan and former presidents John Dillon and Tom Parlon.

Others from the agricultural sector included Anna Marie McHugh of the National Ploughing Association, Macra na Feirme’s Aoife Helly, former head of the Food Safety Authority Prof Patrick Wall, its current chief executive Prof Alan Reilly, Bord Bia chief executive Aidan Cotter, Teagasc’s Eric Donald, Geraldine Kearney of Glanbia and the Tullamore Show’s Christy Maye. The MEP Maireád McGuinness also attended.

A poem, Father, written by Seán himself was read at the funeral Mass in the Church of the Divine Word at Dublin’s Marley Grange.

It was recited by former Independent Newspapers journalist Eugene Hogan, who said it could have been about Seán:

When my father died

The professionals cried,

The undertaker and doctor.

Little more need be said

Of a man with a heart of gold

Locked in a tabernacle of arthritic bones

who could melt stones....with his words.

Who loved children and dogs.

Deep lakes and cotton covered bogs.

Ballads dropped from his lips

And a mercury brain generated

Quips worthy of the best.

For that he was.

The best.