Sad farewell to a mum, dad and three beautiful children
Wexford Quays came to a sombre and poignant standstill on Friday as towns people joined with members of Travelling community in bidding farewell to tragic Thomas and Sylvia Connors and their three young children who perished in the Carrickmines fire tragedy almost two weeks ago.
People choked back tears and some openly wept as the funeral procession, led by two pipers and carriages, one white and one black, drawn by plumed horses, the grey with a plaited mane, proceeded slowly along Wexford Quays towards its final destination at Crosstown Cemetery where members of the extended Connors family are buried.
'They're home now,' said one woman, struggling to find words to suit this sad occasion.
Toiseach Enda Kenny was among the mourners at Bride Street Church, where senior members of the gardai and Wexford County Council joined family members. Mr Kenny, Minister Paul Kehoe and Minister Brendan Howlin were among those walking at the back of the funeral procession when it turned out of Bride Street Church, and proceeded slowly along King Street to the Quays.
By the time it had reached Wexford Bridge, only about 30 people were still walking behind the carriages and three hearses, the one at the back bearing the small white coffin of six-month-old Mary.
The words 'Baby Mary' were spelt out in red flowers at the back of the hearse, a picture of the beautiful child and a pink teddy bear nestled in the flower-filled vehicle.
There were fewer people than anticipated at the funeral, but suggestions that there were going to thousands of people there were always far wide of the mark.
There was a bone-chilling wind on the Quay as the cortege wound past, but fortunately the rain, which had threatened a few minutes earlier, held off.
With the Requiem Mass for the family taking place in Dublin on Thursday the ceremonies at Bride Street Church were short, lasting only 20 minutes, but it was another half an hour before the cortege was ready to begin its journey and only after some of the many floral tributes were secured to the tops of the horse-drawn carriages.
One of the couple's two surviving children Michael, aged six, was comforted by family members. Their other surviving child, Tom, aged four, was not present at the funeral.
'When did we ever see five people buried in Wexford, it's a terrible thing to see?' said a man standing in the church yard.
Sylvia's coffin was in the white carriage, a flower arrangement centred on an over-sized Celine Dion CD, was at one side of. The black carriage carrying Thomas, the first out of the church yard, had flowers spelling out 'Mam and Dad' while a floral representation of a drill, a tribute to his skills as a craftsman, was set in the rear shelf.
Then came hearses carrying Christy, aged two, with a teddy bear and flowers within it, one with Jimmy carrying more flowers and the fifth with Mary.
On Thursday evening small groups of people, respectful, silent, had gathered outside Bride Street Church well ahead of the planned 5 p.m. arrival time following the Requiem Mass Dublin.
In the church yard itself, members of the extended Connors family and other mourners remained close to the church doors, huddled close.
They came from far and near, heavy of foot, floods of tears. heads bowed, borne down by the tragedy of it all. The sense of shared loss palpable both within and without the churchyard, the tolling of bells the only sound to be heard as they gathered.
Many were sharing thoughts and happy memories amid the despair, but no kind word, no smile of help could stem the tide of grief as these people came to mourn and bury their dead - a mother, father and their three beautiful children who a few days earlier had loved and laughed and cried and tragically died.
A man stood quietly with his dog - the lead bearing a black ribbon.
Just before 5.20 p.m. the strains of the lone piper - playing 'Going Home' at the head of the funeral procession could be heard before the five hearses came into sight led by four undertakers, two men and two women.
The first hearses carried the remains of Thomas and Sylvia, then Jim, Christy, and the last carrying a tiny coffin bearing Mary.
The hearses drew into the church yard with military precision, lining up outside the door with tailgates open as the priests waited for the family to be brought in on trollies draped in purple and gold, the first of them, the smallest, carrying Mary.
It was one of the saddest occasions seen in Wexford for many years, and one man standing outside the church gates said the last time he remembered the town being stunned into a similar silence was for the funeral of Detective Garda Seamus Quaid 35 years ago.