herald

Wednesday 22 November 2017

Westlife to sing at funeral as Gerry has the last laugh

Gerry Ryan always wanted his family and friends to remember him with laughter – so he provided one last giggle, even in death.

In typical Gerry humour, a brass plaque on his coffin features a famous movie line: “Open the pod bay doors, HAL.”



The line comes from the Stanley Kubrick film, 2001: A Space Odyssey. And although the moment in the film marks an eerie conflict between an astronaut and the supercomputer HAL- 9000, the movie raises the idea of life beyond death.



The 2FM chat show host made his final journey home to his family in Clontarf yesterday evening.



Late yesterday afternoon, his partner Melanie visited Gerry in the funeral home.



WAKED



His body will be waked privately and a funeral mass will take place at 11.30am tomorrow after which Gerry Ryan will be laid to rest.



The rich mahogany coffin was carried into his home as his family and friends gathered around to mark the life of the legendary broadcaster.



Westlife will perform at the funeral tomorrow, which will be broadcast live on 2fm.



Final preparations were being made today for the service. It will be “sober and dignified” in accordance with the wishes of his family, chief celebrant Fr Michael Collins said today.



A string quartet from the National Symphony Orchestra will play classical music in the Church of St John the Baptist on Clontarf Road before Mass begins. A gospel choir will sing hymns during the Mass.



Westlife are expected to sing You Raise Me Up during communion. All the music arrangements are being coordinated by Fr Dermod McCarthy of RTE, one of five priests who will concelebrate the Mass.



There will be no ‘celebrity’ speaker and the homily will be delivered by Fr Brian D’Arcy who has ministered to members of the showbusiness and media community for decades.



Fr Collins was chosen by the family as chief celebrant on the strength of an 11-year friendship with Gerry which began when Gerry interviewed him about his book, The Story of Christianity, in 1999. Fr Collins was later transferred to Rome but Gerry frequently interviewed him there about church matters.



“Gerry used to refer to me as ‘Our Man in the Vatican’. Gerry was a very interesting man and one of the funniest people I ever met. People either loved or hated him but the majority of people had a soft spot for him,” said Fr Collins, who is based in Blackrock in Dublin.



“The family have asked that the funeral Mass be a sober event. I know that Gerry loved the traditions of the church and the whole pomp and ceremony. I know he probably would have liked a Verdi Mass with full orchestration but the church is not big enough. It only holds about 500 people,” said Fr Collins.



“He got his interest in faith from his mother who was a very religious woman and who was a strong influence on his life. Maureen had enormous faith,” he said.



PRIESTS



The other priests participating will be Fr Jack Harris, who taught Gerry in St Paul’s secondary school in Raheny and has links with RTE, and the moderator of the parish, Fr Cormac McIlraith.



Fr McIlraith said: “RTE people have been preparing the church for the broadcasting of the Mass. The gardai are expecting a lot of people to arrive and loudspeakers are being erected across the road in the big car park. It’s a busy main road so the guards will probably be on duty outside.”



He said that the church, built in 1830, was not big enough to cater for large crowds. The church has strong links with the Ryan family. Gerry and Morah were married in the church and Gerry’s mother funeral took place there three years ago.



Gerry spoke affectionately in the church about his mother during the Mass. He will be buried alongside her at Dardistown cemetery. The family had requested that the burial be a private occasion.



Donations in lieu of flowers can be made by people to a charity of their own personal choice.



Fr McIlraith said that all five Ryan children had received the sacraments in the church and that Gerry had met with him on some of these occasions. “He was always very, very courteous on those occasions,” he said.

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