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Uncle Dick: A man in a million

by Jimmy Rhatigan

DEATH is never pleasant.

It is heart-breaking, a bitter pill, never joyful.

It can be quite chastening too, particularly if you are on one side of the Irish Sea and the one you love and respect is on the other, in a coffin, at a cremation ceremony.

Dust to dust hits home like a blow of a sledgehammer.

Like James Shirley’s poem, Death the Leveller, it is a reminder from whence we came and how we end up.

Sceptre and crown must tumble down and in the dust be equal made, with the poor crooked scythe and spade.

I watched a webcast of my uncle Dick’s funeral ceremony in London, in the Borough of Barnet to be exact, on Wednesday.

Watching mourners filing into the State-run crematorium set the heart beating fast.

Having attended a similar type ceremony in Mount Jerome, Dublin, I knew what to expect.

We sometimes describe end of life ceremonies, burials or cremations as lovely, even beautiful.

What we probably mean is that a particular ceremony was emotional, respectful, a fitting tribute to a family member, friend or neighbour.


My immediate reaction is that I would dearly loved to have been with uncle Dick and his extended family.

To be with them in spirit and to experience their emotions, even from a distance, was a privilege.

Sadly, circumstances dictated that I could not be with an uncle who was like a dad to myself and my brother Joe when my father passed away.

That Joe was there to represent our family was a huge consolation. 

Joe would have walked across the Irish Sea in a pair of wellingtons to mourn the passing of a man we loved and a family we so dearly cherish.

Toughest part was when my cousin Ian and Dick’s grandson Seán paid their tributes to the Threecastles, Kilkenny man.

Battling with tears, Ian stopped short of describing his beloved dad as the King of the world, a father in a million who was so kind, caring and loving to his wife Teresa, daughter Irene, his grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Grandson Seán spoke of the great love that granddad Dick had given to his grandchildren and great grandchildren.


A funeral gathering that lasted for circa 35 minutes had a sombre ending as family and friends walked single file from the Barnet Church.

Not a word was uttered as mourners had their own ways of saying goodbye to a brave country boy from Kilkenny who became the pride of the Irish in his adopted London.

Fittingly, a man who had given unselfishly of himself and meant so much to so many was now home alone with his Maker.

In a quiet little corner of England’s capital city, a young blond boy who had emigrated to England, one of seven children of Annie and Joe Dunne, departed life as he had lived it, without fuss or a cross word.

Aged 90, he was showered with words of kindness that he would never have looked for.

Uncle Dick was never a taker, always a giver and so he will remain in the hearts of so many with whom he had shared his generosity, charm and kindness.

If God is as good to him as he was to God’s children, then Heaven will certainly be Dick’s comfortable bed.

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