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.