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Huge numbers attend funeral of John Larkin, Ballyshannon and Galway

"A man who gave generously to his family, to his club and his community"

Michael Daly

Reporter:

Michael Daly

Email:

michael.daly@donegaldemocrat.com

Huge numbers attend funeral of John Larkin, Ballyshannon and Galway

The remains of the late John Larkin, a former member of the 28 Inf Bn Finner Camp are carried from St Patrick's Church after funeral mass - also pictured are members of Aodh Ruadh GAA club.

Mourners attending the Requiem Mass this afternoon (Thursday) of John Larkin, a proud son of Galway who made Ballyshannon his home for 40 years and more, were told that John was a man who gave constantly to his family, his club, his community and to his friends, without ever counting or caring about the cost to himself.

In his homily Parish Priest of Kilbarron, Fr Cathal O Fearrai told a packed St Patrick’s Church in Ballyshannon that they were there to give thanks to a man who had made a huge contribution to the town of Ballyshannon:

“As we give thanks to God for the gift of the life of John Larkin, we give thanks also for the example he gave us, we give thanks for the way he came from Aughrim in County Galway to us and for the huge difference he has made to the life of Ballyshannon and our parish.”

Fr O Fearrai reflected on the life of a man who was multifaceted, but a man, who had at his core his family, his faith, his love of sport, love of people, community and his country, having served with distinction with the Defence Forces and as a peacekeeper in Lebanon.

He said John’s love of hurling was well known, he outlined the many roles he played as player, official, coach, manager and official at club and county level, but he reminded mourners also that John was also passionate about the welfare of others, evidenced by his involvement in the fledgling Army Credit Union movement at Finner Camp and in his work to set up Neighbourhood Watch in his area.

During the funeral liturgy there were many poignant moments, not least when his son John Junior sang after Holy Communion. Earlier, symbols of John’s life had been brought to the Altar, each one of them capturing a facet of a rich and varied life and loves.

His granddaughter Ciara brought a family photo, his brother Tony carried the Galway jersey, another granddaughter, Hannah Downey carried forth a golf ball, his great friend and fellow Galwegian John Rooney, brought forward a hurl, Rebecca Downey, a grand daughter carried an Aodh Ruadh jersey and great friend Carl Duggan brought the final symbol, his blew United Nations beret, a reminder of his time in the army and his service in The Lebanon.

Six priests concelebrated the mass, principal celebrant was Fr Cathal O Fearrai, PP Kilbarron, assisted by Fr Anthony Kelly and Fr Michael Molloy from his native parish, Fr Dermot Burke, Canon Ray Munster and Fr Herbie Bromley. Fr Gerry Reynolds, Army Chaplain at Finner, sent an apology as he was unable to attend due to a prior engagement.


LAST WEEK

Fr O Fearrai, as he greeted the family and the huge attendance to overflowing, reflected back to last week when he was with John on the First Friday:  “Last Friday when I visited John, he said to me ‘I didn’t think it would come to this’ - John I say to you now, I didn’t think it would come to this today.”

In his homily he said there is the shock of people realising that John is gone, but he said  as a people of Faith, we know the hand of God is very much involved in all of this, the hand of God who has given that gift of life to John.  

“God has a plan for all of us, irrespective of how we may live life. He still has a plan.

“In the Gospel we heard we have to die, that is very much a part of the mystery of life.

“We have the cold winter nights, the barren trees and the dark nights but we have that in order to give way to the spring and new life.

“John Larkin was a man of faith, a faith he lived by and he practicesed,” he said.

The coffin of the late John Larkin is draped with the Irish flag by members of the Defence Forces at St Patrick's Church after funeral mass in Ballyshannon on Thursday. INDD 131117 TG4


BORN IN AUGHRIM

Painting a picture of John’s life, Fr O Fearrai reminded mourners that the Aughrim native would often remind people of the Battle of Aughrim:   “Born in Aughrim, Co Galway, and on Friday we heard about the battle of Aughrim (laughter) 1691.”

John worked on a farm in his early days, he then worked in ‘Charlie’s Shop’ in Aughrim and went to Dublin as a teenager where he did bar work.

On his 19th birthday he joined the army, serving for 39 years in army as a Corporal, retiring just four years ago.

He met his wife Teresa in the Bonanza bar in Bundoran - now known as The Phoenix -  and they would have marked their 40th wedding anniversary this December. “For John family was everything, he adored his grandchildren, he would have been so proud of how Ciara, Hannah and Rebecca sang the Psalm today,” added Fr O Fearrai.

He described John as “a docile, happy man in himself, who loved people, who was never tired of helping and giving to so many aspects of Ballyshannon community.”

He said sport was important and noted how he was very much involved in Aodh Ruadh as a player, selector, coach, club official and as a fundraiser - “anything and everything he could do, he would do it willingly,” he added.


HURLING

“He gave a huge impetus to hurling his great love along with Billy Finn and Pat Butler and they put hurling on the map here. They dragged in John Rooney and they carried on that tradition. He coached hurling and football, hurling his first love. He played on the last Aodh Ruadh team to take part in a senior final in Donegal. He was chairman of hurling committee at Aodh Ruadh and represented Donegal on the Ulster Hurling Committee. In  the past 40 years he didn’t miss a hurling or football final and attended this year’s hurling final won by Galway.”

Fr O Fearrai said John also played rugby and loved all sports, in later life becoming an adept golfer, winning the president’s cup in 2014 at Bundoran Golf Club. Other great loves include music, country music in particular, although a visit to the home of the late Elvis Presley in Graceland was a stand out memory for John.

The funeral procession of the late John Larkin, a former member of the 28 Inf Bn Finner Camp, makes its way down Castle Street, Ballyshannon,  after funeral mass in St. Patrick's Church, Ballyshannon, with a guard of honour from members of the Defence Forces and members of the Aodh Ruadh GAA Club. INDD 131117 TG5

Referencing John’s diagnosis with Motor Neurone Disease, Fr O Fearrai said John knew what was ahead of him wasn’t going to be easy. “He was positive, he was full of hope, he was still planning how he would come to Mass here in St Patrick’s. But God had a different plan for him,” Fr O Fearrai stated.

“As we give thanks to God for the gift of life of John Larkin of the example he gave us, the way he came from Aughrim and the huge difference he has made to the life of Ballyshannon and our parish,” he concluded.

Guards of honour from Aodh Ruadh club and the Irish Army were present prior to and after the funeral Mass. His remains were taken to the Abbey Assaroe where John was laid to rest.


He is survived by his wife Teresa, sons and daughters, John, Claire, Louise and Martin; daughter-in-law Bernie; son-in-law, David; grandchildren, Ciara, Hannah, Emma, Jane and Darragh;  mother Mary Delia; brothers and sisters, Mary, Anne, Frank, Liam, Rita, Pauline, Helen, Martin, Claire, Kathleen and Tony; brothers-in-law, sister-in-law, nieces and nephews.