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Driscoll of Cork
Funeral of John John O'Driscoll

Town comes to standstill in fitting farewell to King of the Travellers

Anne Nyhan
witnesses the extraordinary funeral of John John O'Driscoll

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 heavens.

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 head

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 through Bandon.
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 inauspiciously

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.

Submitted by John O'Driscoll

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