Homily for Remembrance of the Carmody Hotel Tragedy, Ennis, Sunday, January 14th, 2018 Ennis Cathedral
It was the infamous Joseph Stalin, I believe who remarked that the death of 10,000 is a statistic but the death of a single loved one is a tragedy. For many people around the country and world the sad disaster in Carmody’s Hotel, just two streets away, 60 years ago was a very sad event, a statistic, so to speak, but to so many of you here present who knew the people involved and were related it was indeed an immense tragedy.
This is the case also for the recently bereaved families of Nellie Wylde of Clonroad Ennis and Peter Keane of Kilrush road whose months minds we commemorate today.
We gather in prayer and solidarity with you all in your sacred remembrance!
Funeral Mass of Fr. Noel Carey, RIP
During the week, I was at the funeral of a Priest, Fr. Noel Carey from Shinrone, in the eastern part of the diocese. Like so many other Irish Priests of his time he went on mission to Scotland and was ordained for Motherwell diocese and ministered there for almost 60 years before returning to retire and minister in Barna in Dunkerrin parish. The former Vicar General of Motherwell, Mgr. Miller in the course of the funeral homily spoke of an event that totally transformed Fr. Noel’s outlook and faith life entirely.
Auchengeich Mining Tragedy, 1959
It was as a result of the awful tragedy of the killing of 47 men in his parish in a mining disaster. The men were killed after a fire trapped them underground at the Auchengeich Colliery in North Lanarkshire on 18 September 1959, just over a year after the Camody Hotel tragedy here in Ennis. Like the Franciscan Chaplains of 9-11 in New York and the then Fr. Edward Daly on bloody Sunday in the North of Ireland Fr. Noel bravely went down into the mine to minister to the dying and offer them the last rites of the Church. Those who know him said that as a result of that terrible time of mass sadness and tragedy that Fr. Noel transformed very much in faith and personality. Not surprisingly he became much more sensitive to the fickleness of life, the shortness of life, the fact that we are on loan to his earth for a very short time and that we could return to meet our maker at any time.
Carmody Hotel Tragedy
In listening to the accounts of many people this week on Clare FM, on the Joe Duffy show and in reading John Bradley’s wonderful book on Carmody’s Hotel I got a strong sense that for many people, here in Ennis – like Fr. Noel in the parallel Yorkshire tragedy, their lives were changed. Changed utterly. Loss, sadness, emptiness, pain, heart-ache. Questions. What if?
Today in this special ceremony we gather to remember the souls of the 8 people who died as a result of this sad and tragic day, Wednesday, January 15th, 1958, 60 years ago.
Mrs. Bridie Byrne, Kilrush
Mrs. Josephine Carmody, Barefield
Mrs. Margaret Coffey, Clarecastle
Mrs. Nora Considine, Corofin
Prof. Ernest de Regge, Ennis
Mr. Thomas Donlon, Ennis
Mr. James FitzGibbon, Ennis
Mrs. Ellen McNamara, Crusheen
We remember their families and the many, many people affected.
We pray earnestly as well for Nellie Wilde and Peter Keane and their families.
The prayer of Blessed John Henry assists us in our efforts:
O Jesus, Lover of souls, we recommend unto you the souls of all your servants, who have departed with the sign of faith and sleep the sleep of peace. We beseech you, Lord and Saviour, that, as in your mercy to them you became man, so now you would admit them to your presence above. May the heavens be opened to them. May the Archangel St. Michael conduct them to you. May your holy Angels come forth to meet them, and carry them to the city of the heavenly Jerusalem. May they rest in peace. Amen.
Time of Reflection and Memory – seeking hope
So, what hope, at all, or meaning can we draw from such a disaster and tragedy as we reflect now 60 years on? Invariably as a result of such a tragedy there are anecdotes of the triumph of the human spirit. The remarkable story of the Angel of Mercy of County Clare – Nurse Elizabeth Kelly and her heroic efforts on her wedding day is a point in question and the outpouring of support, care and consolation offered to relatives and friends is such a hallmark of a very loving and Christian community.
The Hope of Heaven
There’s a phrase in the outstanding book to be launched courtesy of John Bradley and the Clare Roots Society and the phrase is “People die only when we forget”. One of the outstanding treasures of being a person of faith is that we believe even when the human remembrance is long forgotten that is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of new life and togetherness and reunion in our true home in heaven.
The Wreck of the Deutchland
In his poem, the Wreck of the Deutchland – Gerard Manley Hopkins tries to come to terms with the sadness of the loss of many people including five Franciscan Nuns who were lost at sea near Kent in England in 1875. In it he prays:
Lord of living and dead:
Thou has bound bones and veins in me, fastened me flesh,
And after it almost unmade, what with dread,
Thy doing: and dost thou touch me afresh?
Over again I feel thy finger and find thee.
May we and the many we remember here today and all belonging to them, relatives, friends, neighbours and acquaintances, past and present experience afresh that presence of God that Hopkins refers to in his epic lament.
Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed rest in peace. Amen!