‘Wonderful life’ of Gordon Colleary recalled at his funeral

USIT founder ‘helped people realise their personal vision, or his personal vision as theirs’

American Catholic mystic Thomas Merton was quoted at the funeral of Gordon Colleary (73) whose funeral Mass took place at St Joseph's church in Dublin's Glasthule today.

"The highest spiritual reality is to be human, to be natural," Mass celebrant Fr Hugh Fagan recalled."

“You could say many things about Gordon, but he was certainly a wonderful human being . . . he lived with a profound joy and a great deal of fun,” he said.

Mr Colleary died on June 17th last at Seaford, East Sussex, surrounded by his family. Founder of the student travel agency USIT, he was also chairman of the Sunday Tribune newspaper


In a eulogy Emma Colleary said of her father's death that it "felt like my bedrock was shattered", but she had since also felt "the strength of our family. We will come through, closer and stronger."

She had discovered grief “comes in cycles. Today I’m flat calm, you’ll be glad to hear.” Such had been the response to her father’s death she knew “for sure, he was extraordinary.”

Conor Colleary recalled how so many notes received since his father's death spoke of his generosity, also of him being "a bit of a rascal. He did have a wonderful life" and "always made me feel I was loved no matter how challenging I was."

His father was “always a battler” who “was given three months to live almost 15 years ago.” Their parents had been “the perfect team.”

Barry Colleary said his father was "unique" and a visionary "who helped people realise their personal vision, or his personal vision as theirs." There was " excitement and often chaos" wherever his father lived. Recalling the saying that behind every great man there is a great woman, he added "Mam was certainly that woman - what an amazing team."

Quoting from Robert Burns, he concluded "if there's another world, he lives in bliss;If there is none, he made the best of this."

Also celebrating the Mass was Fr Maurice Gordon, parish priest at Walthamstow in east London and a cousin of Mr Colleary's.

Chief mourners were Marín Colleary, their three children, two daughters-in-law, Kate and Sarah, four grandchildren, and Mr Colleary’s siblings, Mary, Ann, Brendan, and Gearoid.

Among the large attendance were Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore; Minister for Comunications Pat Rabbitte; Fianna Fáil TD and cousin of the deceased Dara Calleary; Fine Gael TD Eoghan Murphy; former Fine Gael director of organisations and strategy Frank Flannery; employment law consultant Pat Brady; RTÉ's Religious and Social Affairs Correspondent Joe Little; Council of State member Michael Farrell and his wife Orla; senior counsel Patrick Hanratty; Eugene Magee of Travelplan Partners; and equality consultant Bronagh Hinds.

Also there was Irish Times Environment Editor Frank McDonald; Head of Public Affairs at DIT Melda Slattery; ESRI director Prof Frances Ruane; Irish Times dance critic Seona MacRéamoinn; broadcasters Olivia O'Leary and Matt Cooper; Irish Examiner columnist Victoria White, and retired Irish Times journalists David Shanks and Brendan Ó Cathaoir.Bow ties were much in evidence.

Burial will take place tomorrow at 2 pm in Ardara, Co Donegal.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is Religious Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times