“A GOOD man in every way,” was one neighbour’s description of the late Dr Brían O’Rourke, scholar, author, songwriter and linguist, who was laid to rest in Feakle this week.
Crowds thronged St Mary’s Church and the Angelus bell rang out, as the simple wicker coffin was carried in, adorned with carnations and roses – a nod to Brían’s famous comic ballad, ‘Chantal de Champignon’.
Figures from the worlds of politics, literature, drama and broadcasting attended the funeral, as well as former colleagues from the Galway Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) where Dr O’Rourke had previously lectured in Heritage Studies.
Brían, a native of Ratheniska, County Laois, passed away, at the age of 73, at his home in Magherabaun on Friday, April 8. His funeral mass was concelebrated by his brother Fr Caoimhín. His broadcaster brother, Seán and sister Anne, brought up the offeratory gifts.
Symbols were presented of Brían’s life. Among them was a copy of his book, Blas Meala – A Sip from the Honey Pot, a collection of Irish traditional songs translated into English; a CD to represent his love for traditional music and song; one of his manuscripts of songs; photos of family and friends; and the bells rung at his wedding to broadcaster, Paula Carroll.
In his sermon, Fr Caoimhín said his brother would be remembered as a bard, a Renaissance man, a scholar and an author, but most of all as a family man. He described Paula and the couple’s three daughters, Anna, Rosa and Eva as “four angels” who comforted Brían throughout his illness.
Fr Caoimhín referred to some of the hundreds of tributes, which described Brían as “a friend to many”, “a kind and gentle soul with a huge heart”, and “a giant of the singing community”. “Memories make the past present,” Fr Caoimhín said.
Towards the close of a ceremony marked by music and memories, Paula Carroll read the poem ‘At the Well Head’ by Séamus Heaney. It was, she said, “about people who live music and embody art and who don’t just perform it. The was really important to Brían and to me.”
She then introduced traditional singer Mary Anne Ni Chaidain “to sing Brían home”.
Brían’s daughter, Rosa, described sitting up until the early hours finding words to say in tribute to her father, on behalf of herself and her sisters.
In an emotional tribute, she described her dad as “great craic”, a man who would invent elaborate treasure hunts and drive into puddles to entertain his beloved daughters.
She recalled going in to his office at GMIT, where he would keep her occupied during his lectures. She added that some of her father’s happiest moments included his daughters lining out with Feakle Camogie Club and their talent for music.
As a midwife, Rosa recalled making a Facetime call to her parents after delivering her first baby, and her father’s joy in her work. “He was very proud of his three girls,” Rosa said.
Dr O’Rourke is survived by his wife, Paula, daughters Anna, Rosa, and Eva, brothers and sisters Lorcán, Fr Caoimhín SJ, Fran, Gerard, Seán, Mary and Anne, sisters-in-law, brother-in-law, nieces, nephews, aunt Carmel, uncle Michael, cousins, extended family, and a large circle of friends.