Town comes to standstill in fitting farewell to
King of the Travellers
witnesses the extraordinary funeral of John John
HE man, known as the `King of
the Travellers', recently bade farewell to this world and, in a unique and
solemn ceremony of great pomp and splendour, entered his new kingdom in the
When John John O'Driscoll
of Kilbeg, Bandon went to his final resting place he was carried out in a style
that befitted a royal monarch.
The busy town of Bandon,
gateway to the West, shut down as the funeral procession paraded in solemn
glory through the streets. The King was resting in an ornate, embossed, silver
casket, within a glass panelled, Victorian funeral hearse. The carriage was
pulled by two perfectly groomed, black Gelderlander stallions, in nickel
mounted harness, each bearing, a black ostrich plume, symbol of mourning on its
Accompanying the hearse, in
silent march were two grooms in fill mourning livery, and driving the funeral
coach was a coachman and assistant, both in frock coats (coachman's aprons),
and top hats. Ahead of these was a lone piper, playing a haunting lament, the
strains of the music ringing out in the silence that fell on the town. Beneath
that silence was a quiet sombreness, broken only by the piper's music, and the
constant clip clop of the horses' hooves.
The cortege bearing the body John John O'Driscoll winds its way
Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Before entering the church,
the piper, played Amazing Grace and a family member, gave, a moving rendition
of 'She moved through the Fair'. Many were moved to tears
The funeral passed through
a Guard of Honour, provided by Bol Chumainn na hEireann, a tribute to the
"King" who was a bowler, of great reputation.
The Bishop of Cork and
Ross, Dr. John Buckley, attended the funeral, himself a veteran bowler
John John, as he was known,
was a settled member of the Bandon community far many years. He was mar red to
his wife Mary Ann who came from Cobh, while he haled from Blarney:.
Together they reared 13
children, and had grandchildren and great grandchildren.
John was a respected
antique expert and a known animal lover. He was buried, with his favourite
peaked cap on his head, and a 28 ounce bowl in his hand.
In the funeral home, a
picture of him, in the height of his prowess, hand in full swing, hurling a
bowl, to new heights of glory, was pinned over his coffin. In life as in death,
he was a large character
In front of the piper were
two motorised carriages full of the most ornate and enormous wreaths. And
following the hearse, came the chief mourners the ladies contingent being
carried in limousines- The horse drawn hearse was an exact replica of that
which pulled the remains of famous Irish hero, Michael Collins, through the
streets of Corm, before leaving for Dublin.
People came out and lined
the streets, heads bowed, many grief stricken, and many more simply
awestricken. Cars from the bypass routes came to a halt, as traffic backed up
to allow the procession, which everyone who witnessed the occasion, agreed
would never happen again in Ireland, pass peacefully on its way. There were no
complaints or horn hooting, just sympathy, and acknowledgement that to simply
be present was to take part in an historic moment.
The funeral procession
paraded through Bandon's busiest thoroughfares, going down South Main Stmt, and
up North Main Street, around central Allen Square, and back again, by a
circuitous route, to die main, Catholic, St. Patricks Church, on a hill
overlooking the town.
Momentarily, at Allen
Square, a member of the travelling community, sung a unique and poignant
rendition of "The Black Velvet Band". The whole occasion was meticulously
organised. For this rendition., which could be heard through the streets, a
microphone was scrumptiously produced, and folded away again. just as
Gabriel and O'Donovan
Funeral Homes, undertakers for the occasion, said that he had been in business
for 25 years, and had seen many funerals, which were spectacular for many
reasons, but had never
witnessed the sense of
spectacle and pomp this one did. "He was their King and he was buried as
royalty," he said.
Bandon Florist, Kay
O'Donovan, of Kilbrogan Hill, paid an equal tribute to the sheer magnanimity of
the funeral. "1 have been in business for 22 years, and have never seen such
elaborate and enormous wreathes", she said, praising the family members as
being very respectful and very nice to deal with
One of the wreaths
was an enormous picture of a horse, drawn out in flowers, a replica of a
pie-bald pony. Another was a replica of the "Gates of Heaven" and another, of
"The Open Book" - the bible. Yet another was a tribute to the man who loved to
roam around his beloved West Cork. and simply said "Gone West." All were at
least six foot in length.
County TUESDAY, JUNE 25, 2002 Irish Examiner
Irish Examiner, 2002, Thomas Crosbie
Media, TCH - reproduced here with permission pending.