Dave’s Funeral Mass

Before I start this posting I would just like to thank all of you for posting your comments and sending me e-mails about Dave McGarry, your recollections and your thoughts.  They came from Australia, America, all over Europe, including England and Ireland and it just shows how well the man was thought of by all and sundry, by the great and the good and by one or two dodgy customers as well.

The morning was wet, not raining but it had been; there was a cutting easterly wind that bit through many layers and I felt sorry for the few hundred who could not get into church in the melee of mourners before the service started.  The requiem mass was to start at 11.00am, myself and Helen were first in at 9.45am which allowed us time to have a few last thoughts with Dave as he lay in supine repose behind stiff oak boards at the front of church.  By 10.15am the pews were full and there was little standing room left inside.  The only ones filtering through the crowds were the clerics dribbling in, in more ways than one, in twos and threes with their little attache cases.  Looking around the assembled, there were many recognisable faces, older no doubt than I remember them but recognisable none the less, less hair, more lines and definitely more rotundity, some friendly, some trying to shield a glower, some with a vague and empty look.

With twenty minutes to go, I received a shove on my left shoulder and a very audible voice hissed “you ought to be ashamed of yourself, you hypocrite” and the voice quickly retreated into the crowd.  What right this man had for saying that had me reeling, surely I had as much right to be there as any.  I must have known Dave for as long as most, for 50 years at least.  This man had only known him from St Catherine’s but on reflection I realised his outburst had nothing to do with Dave.  The prodder was a lad who was in my cohort at Bede’s.  A self-admitted abusee of Monsignor Thomas Duggan and a catholique extraordinaire.  He it was who slammed the phone down on me 30 months ago when I asked him for help with my need to oust Duggan.  He seems to relish unfinished conversations, his bravura is excellent.

The bell to start proceedings rang clear and an impressive line up of rheumy eyed clerics moved as one through the nave led by Kev O’Connor and with the Bishop bringing up the rear.  50 or 60 in number and possibly only two of them under 70 years of age.  Some familiar faces, some I felt sorry for, who I hope I know to be good men, others I know for whom I would not give tuppence.  All the same it was an impressive phalanx and seemed to be putting out the message that we are still here and strong in spirit but as they settled into their seats and as the Bishop doffed his white mitre in favour of his zuchetto in order to lead the mass, they promptly fell asleep, leaving a few sentries to give them a nudge when their positions had to change as the service developed.

The Bishop started off with a humorous comment on the size of the crowd but he quickly tailed off to mediocrity.  I ain’t denigrating him for that, its just the way bishops are but it would have been possible for his lightheartedness to have continued and his gravitas diminish.  The highlight was the panygeric given by Fr Tom Mulhearn, a long standing mate of Dave’s.  It was given with knowledge, with passion and massive chunks of humour and emotion.  The emphasis of Mulhearn’s words were on Dave’s goodness and love of the people with which I truly concur but has I looked across at the serried ranks of clergy on the altar there would have been few to live up to Dave’s standard.  Certainly the prodder possessed little of it.

The mass ended, the bishop donned his white mitre once more and the priests exited stage centre.  There was a look of absolute ennui on the faces of many of them, Tom Devaney was visibly moved but Tom knew Dave better than most.  Tom Mulhearn was goodness in the Dave McGarry mould.  I would be absolutely uncertain of the florid Quinlan and the gimlet eyed Kay and most of the other emotionally immature clerics.  As we trooped out behind God’s commandos, I noticed a few more old friends, John Byrne, once head of Bede’s and now an active governor, grown small without his flowing gown and with a Bell’s palsied look about the right side of his face.  There was Mike Devlin, chair of the Salford Diocese Safeguarding Commission with his latest squeeze.  I admire Old Mike, he has certainly got what I ain’t and that is sex appeal.

Outside it was cold and rainy.  I have gone through a vast transformation since I last stood in that church.  I suppose the Devil has claimed me, certainly old Brain claimed Dave and spirited him away to a clayey hole in St Mary’s Cemetery in Wardley which is more or less in his front garden, many a mile from Didsbury and a place where few will venture.  It is a pity he was not buried in Southern Cemetery or Moston where his family are but the Bishop knew that either of those two would be a place of pilgrimage.  Dave would be safer in God forsaken Wardley, so Brainless thought.

I left the church a sadder man than I expected, I had to be there for Dave.  Some of the throng disappointed, they seemed to be hanging on for dear life, needing a miracle to stop the catastrophe that was starting to enclose them.  I know a lot were there also for Dave but the familiar faces who line the front benches of Catherine’s were still there hoping and praying they would not be left out, there was a desperation about them.  These were not the same star struck Catholics of 50 years ago led by enthusiastic, energetic priests.  It all had the deathly smell of putrefaction about it.  I am so, so sorry Dave, you were one of the last in your line.

9 thoughts on “Dave’s Funeral Mass

  1. What a desolate picture you paint, Paul, of the runt that passes for most of the Salford clergy, disillusioned, bitter, twisted old men. Led by an obese, incompetent, unfeeling Bishop in all his emotional immaturity: which is par for the course for the Diocese, well, perhaps not the obese bit. How many of them would have the guts to admit they have, for years, sleep-walked their Church to spiritual and moral bankruptcy? Are they blind to fast-dwindling, ageing congregations? To the dearth of vocations? In the past, they certainly chose to be blind to clerical child abuse, except when they played leading roles in cover-ups or smirked about it with their peers on the golf course. Bishop Brain and his cohorts are even now wriggling on the hook of denial of what went on at St Bede’s. As will the Bishop of Shrewsbury in the light of recent St Ambrose revelations.
    Do they sleep easily with the thought of countless generations lost to their Church due to its intransigency re divorced Catholics? Can they begin to justify the appalling treatment (as in total exclusion) of gay and transgender people? Would they ever dare give a sermon saying, “Ok, we were wrong, contraception is not a mortal sin, meriting hell-fire, nor is sex before marriage in a close relationship (or not even in a non-close one, for that matter), etc, etc? Would they even begin to consider married, or, God forbid, women priests? And those of Irish descent, did they shrug their shoulders on learning of the death of the Indian lady in childbirth? Do they care that in third-world countries Priests and Bishops use innocent young nuns as their sexual playthings? Are they proud of this Pope who thinks the way to connect with his flock is via Twitter?
    The sadness in all this is that good Priests, like Dave, are tarnished by the same brush. And good Priests, like him, are to be treasured, despite his, and their failings, to think outside indoctrinated boxes.
    I can think of quite a few good ones in Salford. For example, Fr. Kevin O’Connor, whom you mentioned, Fr. Pat Tansey, Fr. Ike Williams, Canon Clinch, Fr. McMahon in Chorlton: or Priests of the past like Fr. Paul Chang, Fr. Bernard Sparkes.
    Pity that Dave’s funeral was not held at the OT cricket ground!
    End of rant re runt.

  2. Anyone caring for the Catholic Church (I’m no longer one, sadly) would weep and despair at both your excellent narrative and the truly eloquent comment posted above by Rick Merrin.

    The only thing I can say positively is that there are still some good priests – I was fortunate enough to be acquainted with both Fr Ike Williams and Fr Dennis Clinch.

    The former didn’t last very long at Bedes, but I met him while still at the Alma Mater, visiting him for an enjoyable Saturday night out at my local Catholic Church Social Club (St Bernadette’s, Whitefield – I’ve lived nearby for almost 29 years and never once visited the actual church). He went there after leaving Bedes in the summer of 1970. When Fr Dennis Lee, the parish priest at St Bernadette’s died in 1974, I assumed Ike, if still there, would have succeeded the position. I don’t know if he did, but then he moved on to a parish in Bury, more recently to one at Irlams o’Th’ Heights (near Agecroft) in Salford.

    One thing Ike said to our class over 40 years ago was that wasn’t much point a person going to church every Sunday if for the rest of the week that person lied, cheated, stole and generally did down his fellow man for the other six days – Ike would rather him not attend church and just behave in a Christian manner all the time, wherever possible. I found myself in complete agreement with that.

    Fr Clinch came to Bedes around the time Ike left, he was my Religion teacher for the final year in the 6th form. I remember him coming to my and my parents’ flat to meet my parents – unfortunately I was out when he came, but both my mother and father were impressed by him, as was I. How many current priests would do that for anybody? Very few, I would suggest.
    After leaving Bedes he was parish priest at the Hidden Gem in Manchester centre for quite a number of years.

    Two very humane and kindly men, I feel that I should at least give credit where it is due, not all the priests can be tarred with the same brush. Both of the above postings make that very point, I can only reiterate it.

  3. Paul, you mention two very good priests. Fr Clinch was the only person I have ever met who sort of radiated saintliness, and it was genuine, not in any way contrived. He visited my parents at home too. Ike’s style could hardly have been more different, but I will always be grateful to him for discussing the subject of homosexuality in an intelligent and sensible way in religion class in the Lower Sixth. (Well, it was intelligent and sensible by the standards of 1969; wouldn’t pass muster if one wished to be critical, but I don’t.) I had known since I was 12 that I fancied boys, not girls, but I didn’t have the vocabulary or context to go with it, and without those things it is difficult to make sense of one’s own experience. Without realising it, he helped me enormously, at a time when it was very difficult to get that sort of assistance. I believe that he had to contend with a certain amount of opposition from some other members of staff, who didn’t want the subject raised at all, but who they were I don’t know.

    If all the priests in the catholic church were of the same calibre as those two, the world (and the RC church itself) would be a very different place.

  4. Father McMahon at St. John’s; one of the good ones…..really?
    have you asked people who have dealings with him? I wonder if they think so. He’s not fit to lace Father David’s old Cricket Boots.

  5. Just came on this site by accident as an Old Bedian called Geoff Doyle has recently contacted me. I am interested in Rick Merrin’s comments and what both Geoff and myself would like to know is the e-mail address of Jim Murphy. Rick, I’m very pleased to see you are very MUCH alive and kicking!

    1. Eric, I would give it you if I knew it. As Jim Murphy contributed to this site and is it Jim Murphy from Wilbraham Road you are looking for. I will tell Rick of your interest. He is a regular contributor.

  6. I would say it probably is JM of Wilbraham Rd. Geoff and I are trying to arrange a reunion. Neither of us live in Manchester, and it would be great if we could include Rick & Jim as we all played for St Bedes First XI at the same time, and have not seen each other since school.

  7. I had the massive pleasure of playing rugby with Dave, for many years, at Old Bedians in Didsbury. He was a highly intelligent and humane man, who enjoyed life to the full. I couldn’t attend his funeral, but will always remember him with great fondness as the model of what a genuine priest should aspire to be.
    I wold also, as a former pupil of St Bede’s, take this opportunity of endorsing Paul’s views of the school in the early 60s and of stating that, as many conversations with Old Bedians over the years have shown, they are shared by countless ex-pupils

  8. I knew Fr David McGarry from when i first made my holy communion at St James’ church in Salford where I think he came when he was first ordained.. He had been almost a member of our family all through my childhood when i attended St James’ School Salford and then Adelphi House Grammar. If this is the same Fr McGarry I can only add my sadness at his passing, a true true gentleman, caring and comfortable to talk to. We all remember him with love and talk of him often. It is so sad because I have tried to find out where he was, and I now live in Stockport, so near and yet too late. God bless Fr, rest in peace.

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