Thursday 12 December 2019

Hundreds pay their last respects to tragic air crash victim John

Mourners at the funeral of Dr John Finnan say their final farewells to the man
Mourners at the funeral of Dr John Finnan say their final farewells to the man
Dr John Finnan

Hundreds of mourners gathered to pay their respects to a much loved son, brother, uncle and friend who died in an air crash in Wexford four days ago.

Dr John Finnan (52), from Athy, Co Kildare, a senior researcher with Teagasc, and his flying partner Peter Tawse (61), from New Ross, died when their light aircraft came down near Duncormick 15 minutes after take-off on Sunday.

The senior researcher was a leading figure in the crops research department at Teagasc's Carlow campus.

Chief mourners were his parents John and Claire; his sisters Emer, Ciara and Mary; his brothers-in-law Eoin, Ken and Steven; his nephews Alastair, Jack, Archie, Joshua and Toby; his niece Hannah, and relatives and friends.

The funeral of Dr Finnan took place at St Michael's Parish Church, Athy, at midday yesterday.

Mourners gathered some 40 minutes before the start of the funeral to convey their sympathy to Dr Finnan's parents, sisters and extended family.

Such was the volume of sympathisers that the mass was delayed for several minutes. Three books of condolence were filled with messages to help to comfort his family.

His oak coffin was adorned with a photograph of a smiling Dr Finnan flying, and a wreath of white lilies, roses and carnations.

The mass, concelebrated by Fr Tim Hannon from Athy and Fr Liam Morgan from Naas, Co Kildare, heard that the flying enthusiast adored aircraft and it was his hobby for 30 years.

In his homily Fr Hannon said: "[John's] death was so unnatural and out of the order of life.

"What has happened is such a hard task for his parents John and Claire and family to ask them to accept. Things happen and to accept them doesn't come easy.

"From talking with his parents, I know that John was a very honest, very correct and very charitable man. He didn't like a wrong word said about someone. He adored all of his nephews and niece.

"He had a doctorate in philosophy from Maynooth and Trinity Colleges. His hobby was flying and he did that for the last 30 years. He was a skilled craftsman, filled with knowledge and intelligence, but was also a very religious man.

"Trying to put John's words into what I want to say is that there are no accidents in life.

"[What happened] was an incident in his journey to his eternal make-up. John had knowledge which is akin to a handsome prince or knight and he had his faith which can be likened to a girlfriend.

"His faith loved him and his knowledge knew his end was coming.

"Faith lifted him to the promised land. He is saying to his family that he is alive. When they go up to him in [heaven] they will all be together again. Love will remain eternal and love is the name of the game."

Symbols of John's life were taken to the altar by his five nephews and one niece who were visibly upset at the loss of their uncle.


They included a set of rosary beads and holy water from Glendalough, Co Wicklow; his books, which showed his deep love of learning and history; a shaft of wheat acknowledging his love of science; a compass and a model aeroplane, and a calendar his nephews and niece made every year for Christmas to represent their close-knit family.

Prayers were also said for Mr Tawse, who also died in the crash and is to be buried in Wexford on Friday.

Dr Finnan's remains were buried at St Michael's Cemetery.

The Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) and the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) are examining the circumstances of the deaths. An interim report is due in the coming weeks.

The aircraft was a vintage two-seater plane with one engine that was primarily used for leisure flying.

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