First up we had John Grenham in hiss always interesting blog Why an Irish funeral trumps everything. It is an amusing take on us Irish and our attitude to funerals. When I read it, it brought back to me why we rate funerals as such important social occasions. Yes social, which probably seems peculiar to those outside Ireland who refer to their dead as those who have ‘passed’. You never hear that phrase in Kerry, well not yet. Just this morning a cousin’s name popped up on my phone as a sender of a text. Immediately we said ‘it must be someone who is dead’. That ‘someone’ would indicate a relative and an immediate plan would need to be put in place depending on when and where the funeral was to take place. In this particular case it wasn’t a funeral!
John tells us in his blog about getting a note at 9am to say a neighbour whom he barely knew had died and the funeral was at 10am. While there was no request to attend, John knew instinctively that his attendance was required. He continues:
The country still operates in a forest of mutual obligations, of favours given, owed and received – the “round” system, which notoriously forces everyone in a group in an Irish pub to buy a drink for everyone else, is only the most egregious example. And funerals are probably the most important mutual obligation of all.
This blog is well worth a read and explains a lot about us Irish. This may be a Dublin funeral but I think this mutual obligation is given even more importance in Kerry funerals.
You must remember how much importance Kerry listeners give to the twice a day announcement of ‘the deaths‘ on Radio Kerr
Then on Saturday Rosita Boland in her article in the Irish Times, The Healy-Rae Kingdom where she poses the question ‘Gombeen men or political geniuses?’, quotes a number of Kerry comments on how important the funeral is to these politicians. Boland says ‘Attending funerals seems to be a large part of how the Healy-Raes spend their time, because everyone I talk to mentions it’. Another man in Castleisland told her that the brothers are known for never using the pen that is provided to sign the book of condolences at funerals ‘they bring their own pens, maybe green or red … so that their names stand out on the page and even when they’ve gone people will see they’ve been there’. ‘They go right up to the person who has been bereaved and they make sure they’re seen. No matter what political party someone is from , they go to every funeral’. When Jackie Healy-Rae died more then 10,000 people paid their respects and his funeral was huge.
Obviously this Healy-Rae publicity was not welcome to other politicians, who might not be as vigilent on the funeral attendance scene. A headline on Radio Kerry News today 18th July gives us a headine ‘Kerry Cllr. hits out at politicians attending funerals of strangers‘!
This Irish funeral attendance isn’t a new fangled 21st century thing. A report in the Kerry Evening Post of 28 September 1898 gives us a description of the funeral of Edward Caball – my husband’s great grandfather.
Note: I initially wrote this on 12th July and tried to publish it on that date, but technology fairies stepped in and I didn’t get the problem fixed un Sunday 17th July. So sorry that it is a week out of date.