Josef's funeral - Monday, October 18th 1999
Clane, Co.Kildare & Glasnevin, Co.Dublin

I was honoured to attend Josef's funeral in Clane, Ireland. It was a day which combined feelings of sadness at the loss of so great a man, and joy and celebration of his wonderful life..

The song has ended

The village of Clane is a bustling, busy place, but it paused to pay its respects to its most famous adopted son, Josef Locke, on Monday.

Derry-born Josef had died the previous Friday, in Clane Hospital - not far from his retirement bungalow in the village just 20 miles or so outside Dublin.

church.jpg (16331 bytes)His fine light-oak coloured coffin, topped by a burnished crucifix and a large spray of lilies, had rested in St Patrick's and St Brigid's Church, Clane, overnight.
As golden autumn sunlight fanned from stained glass windows, and offertory candles twinkled, the church began to fill with people.

Friends at first, then the family, led by Carmel, a small dignified woman who had won the heart of the big fella 30 years ago.

Around 200 to 300 people came to say goodbye to Josef -   a family man, and a man of faith, said Father Denis Harrington, who celebrated the Mass.

Father Harrington said:

"The funeral liturgy speaks very clearly to us that death does not mean the end. Life is changed, not ended. And the Easter candle standing at Joe’s coffin speaks to us of Jesus Christ risen from the dead. 'I am the resurrection and the life,' he said. 'One who believes in me never dies.'

"So the Christian position is that we are marking the end of the earthly life, and the beginning of new life, which is eternal.

"For me, there were three Josephs; I was a young man when Josef Locke rose to prominence as a singer. I became a fan, as did so many others, and years later I went to many of his concerts. And apart from being a great tenor, he was also a great communicator and entertainer, and he brought pleasure, and joy into so many people’s lives that we remain fans to this day. And this morning, it is logical for me to say ‘Thank God for all that enjoyment’. For me, Josef was the Lord’s instrument who conveyed enjoyment.

"And that aspect of his life, of course, is well known. But what may not be well known is that he was a man of faith.

"Now, there is another Josef – Joseph McLaughlin, the family man, known only to a much smaller group of people, some of whom are here with us. And there were others who were known to him at various stages in life who cannot be here; and we remember them too, and we pray that the Lord will be with them, to support them. That was the Joseph McLaughlin I didn’t know.

"And finally there is the Joseph, whom God alone knows. And Joseph has gone to God, and we pray that he is being welcomed into God’s eternal embrace. Joseph the man of God, the man of faith, has met his God.

"And our God is just, our God is loving, and our God is merciful. As I get older, and contemplate death for myself more often, I think only of the God of love, and the god of mercy; I do ask for mercy and forgiveness, and that is the hope I live with.

"Today we celebrate Joe, and we pray that he’s with God, and we also thank God very much for him."

His family brought in poignant reminders of the Joseph they loved: a favourite tie, a puzzle book, ornament, a tankard, and the gold disk from EMI for his Hear My Song CD.

These were laid out on the altar, and served as a poignant touchstone for Josef the man.

And although the great tenor's voice was not heard during the service, performances of Ave Maria and I Hear You Calling by another grand tenor, Anthony Kearns, were enough to swell the tears and recall that glorious voice.

Very moving and sincere words from his wife, Carmel were read out: here, briefly, is what she expressed.

"I always though you would make a full recovery, but no, it wasn’t to be. You’re having a well and truly deserved rest, and the angels play their harps for you.
"I am happy for you, Joseph. I have countless happy memories of you, one of the most treasured being you playing the piano, and singing to me `I hear you calling me’.
"I’m so happy I was there for you. I’m also very happy that your children were with me when I needed them most. Without their expressions of love and support, and their kindness, I could not and would not have coped at all. I know you were proud of them, and I certainly am.
"Josef, you don’t need me to tell you how much I miss you and look forward to the day when I will join you again. But until that happens, every step that I take in our home will bring reminders of our life together. "

leave.jpg (12712 bytes)When the service ended Josef's body was borne from the church by, among others, his sons Karl and Peter, and among mourners were his other children, Yvette, Leta and Nikky.

The Taoiseach's aide-de-camp, Capt Michael Kiernan, was also in attendance in his gold-braided uniform of green.

After the Mass, while Garda controlled traffic through the village's choked streets, the hearse and cortege left slowly for the Glasnevin crematorium.

It made its way to Maynooth first, passing lush irish farmland, and trees weeping their multi-coloured leaves at the onset of Autumn.

Then onto the N4 highway, picking up speed, until turning onto the ring road and into the heart of the city, seen in the distance against the sky's powder-blue background

borne.jpg (15761 bytes)Then to Glasnevin, final resting place for the Republic's heroes - from freedom fighters to poets. Around three dozen people attended the short Mass there.

The coffin, somehow small now, rolled out of view, and silently, and tearfully we whispered our final farewells.

Words and pictures c.1999 Peter Lee

grave.jpg (26459 bytes)To mark Josef's birthday in March this year (2000), we paid a visit to his resting place at Glasnevin to pay our respects. His name has been added to the memorial marker now, along with others whose cremated remains are interred in the cemetery plot.


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