Grief has a way of making you feel very old and very young at the same time. So said Seán Davis at his father’s funeral in Dublin on Monday afternoon. One of Derek Davis’s three sons, he continued “when you try to silence everything and listen to what’s going on in your head, you might find the senseless wail of a child.”
Since his father died inexpectedly last Wednesday “what I am left with is an overwhelming sense of love, admiration and gratitude. I am stupidly grateful for everything dad did for me and my brothers; his good humour, his generosity and devotion. In particular, for what he taught us about decency... above all he taught me how to be a good man. It is still very much a work in progress.”
Seán Davis was speaking in the Victorian chapel at Mount Jerome crematorium in Harold’s Cross during a humanist ceremony in which many warm tributes were paid to the broadcaster by his sons and friends.
Colm Davis recalled how "growing up I was extremely proud to be Derek's son." He was "not morbid, and had a very pragmatic view of his own death... be miserable for an hour, maybe for a day, and get on with life."
However, he continued, “I’m gutted that he’s gone but I’m extremely grateful for the things he has given us.”
Referring to his mother Una, "who didn't share dad's love or talent for cooking," Colm recalled how his dad had given his mother a cookbook as a wedding present, "with the inscription 'To Una, with hope'."
Michael Davis said "it's some measure of the man that our greatest worry this week was the fear of being overwhelmed with the sheer volume of people who wanted to pay their respects to dad.
“We’ve always known how much he meant to us but the amount of condolences has given us an appreciation of how much he was loved by everybody else and the impact he had on the lives of those around him.”
He “ really couldn’t hope to express in words what dad meant to me, meant to us, how much we love him and the growing sense of loss we’re only beginning to recognise.”
Among friends who paid personal tribute to Derek Davis at the ceremony were his niece Ciara, RTÉ producer Conor Kavanagh, journalist Brendan Keenan, and angling friend Cherry Byrne from Cork. Funeral celebrant was Padraic Cawley with songs by the Key Notes.
Chief mourners were Una Davis, sons Michael, Colm and Sean, daughter-in-law Georgina, grandson Mikey and his sister Elizabeth.
President Michael D Higgins was represented by Lieut Commander Patricia Butler and Taoiseach Enda Kenny by Comdt Kieran Carey.
RTÉ was represented by deputy director-general Kevin Bakhurst, RTÉ Television MD Glen Killane and head of RTÉ Radio 1 Tom McGuire, and Des Cahill.
Also in attendance were many of his former RTÉ and media colleagues, including Gay Byrne, Sean Duignan, Tom McGurk, Thelma Mansfield, Rodney Rice, Anne Doyle, Olivia Tracey, Bob Collins, Charlie Bird, Joe Fahy, Joe O'Brien, Jim Downey, Sam Smyth, Seamus Smith, Senator Seán Barrett, Fr Brian D'Arcy, Fr Dermod McCarthy, former presidential candidate Seán Gallagher, chef Derry Clarke and his wife Sallyanne, musicians Jim Doherty and John Keogh, political activist Margaretta D'Arcy.