Tributes paid to Kilkenny man (63) who drowned in Australia while visiting daughter

John Holland, who got into difficulty swimming on New Year’s Day, was on ‘a holiday of a lifetime’ in Melbourne

Tributes have been paid to an Irish man who drowned in Australia while visiting his daughter for Christmas.

John Holland (63) had been in Melbourne with his daughter Emma when he got into difficulty swimming in challenging conditions on New Year’s Day.

The grain merchant from Ballyragget in Co Kilkenny was well known locally and had lost his wife Marie to illness in 2022.

“All I understand is that a big wave came in and unfortunately he wasn’t able to get away from it,” said local Fianna Fáil councillor Michael McCarthy. “I believe his daughter was very lucky, she escaped.”


Parish priest Fr Eamonn O’Gorman, a close friend of the deceased, said it appeared he had been swept out by a large wave.

“He seemed so happy, so happy out there with Emma,” he said. “A holiday of a lifetime but little did we think that we’d be bringing him home dead.”

Fr O’Gorman said Mr Holland would have been a strong swimmer but was weakened, having been unwell in recent months. A friend who had travelled to Melbourne with him is now supporting his daughter and helping with arrangements for repatriation.

“He was just a lovely gentleman who would help people out,” said Fr O’Gorman. “He had great love for his family and his family came number one. He had great love for his wife Marie and Marie’s passing, he said - it doesn’t get easier as the time moves on.”

He recalled how Mr Holland had been a regular visitor to his wife’s grave and to the church to light a candle and say a prayer.

Mr Holland is survived by his children John, Emma and Kate and extended family.

A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs said it was providing consular assistance but did not comment on individual cases.

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Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times