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Thursday 28 September 2023 Dublin: 15°C
# rescue 116
'Paralysed with grief, we have lost one of God's finest creatures' - funeral of Captain Mark Duffy takes place
The funeral service for the Coast Guard helicopter pilot took place this morning in his hometown of Blackrock, Co Louth. / YouTube

THE FUNERAL SERVICE for Captain Mark Duffy, who lost his life in the crash of Coast Guard helicopter Rescue 116 two weeks ago, has heard his loss is not one which his community can easily bear.

The service, which took place at St Oliver Plunkett Church in Mark’s hometown of Blackrock, north Louth, was attended by several hundred mourners, including countless representatives of the Coast Guard and other branches of the emergency services.

Celebrated by Mark’s uncle, the Reverend Stephen Duffy, the funeral was sombre and deeply affecting.

BLACKROCK FUNERALS 758A6705_90507175 Eamonn Farrell The coffin of Captain Mark Duffy arriving at St Oliver Plunkett Church in Blackrock, Co Louth, this morning Eamonn Farrell

Attended by President Michael D Higgins, the service saw Mark’s coffin, closely followed by his wife of 17 years Hermione and children Esmé and Fionn, brought to the church in a slow march, before a lone piper led the way to the service proper.

“The hearts of us all are heavy today, heavy and sad because one of our finest and best people has been taken away from us,” Stephen Duffy said in his homily.

When a tragedy such as this occurs, our hearts become paralysed in shared grief and shared loss. This is one of those occasions when words are not only inadequate but well-nigh useless.

He said that learning of Mark’s death made him understand, perhaps for the first time, what Jesus meant when he said: “My God, why have you forsaken us?”.

mark d Captain Mark Duffy

It seemed so unfair that while the rest of us were left untouched a young man such as Mark - happy, generous to a fault, innocent of heart and soul, beloved of his wife and children and family and all of us, should have been so tragically removed from among us.

“Mark was one of God’s finest creatures, my best friend… kindly, humble in spirit, pure of heart, peace-loving, good-natured, loving and lovable,” he said.

Guard of honour

A guard of honour was formed by Mark’s colleagues in the Coast Guard outside the church entrance.

Those gathered varied in countenance – some were stoic, some blank, some visibly upset.

Prayers were offered repeatedly for the families of the two crew members of the stricken helicopter – winchmen Ciaran Smith and Paul Ormsby – who remain missing.

Symbols were placed prior to the service in Captain Duffy’s memory – a rugby ball, his pilot’s helmet, the three rings he gave to his wife on her 40th birthday. Mark’s brother Gavan, audibly upset, gave the first reading.

Following communion, a heartbreaking rendition of the Rolling Stones’ Wild Horses was sung. Mark had been a huge music fan:

No sweeping exit or offstage lines
Could make me feel bitter or treat you unkind
Wild horses couldn’t drag me away
Wild, wild horses couldn’t drag me away

Click here to view this video

The two eulogies were given by friends of Mark – Ed Shivnen, a colleague in the Coast Guard, and Declan Whelan, a member of An Garda Síochána.

Both men gave the impression of a man who was universally loved. With a silly side but possessing steely determination. Mark Duffy loved his family and his life by the sea in Blackrock, they said. The only love he had that came close was his love for flying “that helicopter”.

‘My heart is broken’

Whelan read a short tribute from Mark’s wife Hermione.

“We were together 26 years, I remember you asking me out, you were Mr Cool and me, I was so chuffed,” she said.

We did everything as a team. You’d come home to me and you’d say ‘Hermione I love getting home to you and the kids, but God do I love flying that helicopter’.
You were fearless, you knew something on everything, from music to flying, nature to history. You were always looking for answers.
We danced, we laughed, we sang, and we loved. I could write Mark’s life in a song.
Living here by the sea was absolute contentment for him. All he wanted was to raise our children to adulthood so that we could then have a little more time together. We spoke of the dangers of his job and what would happen should it come to the worst. He told me, if it came to it, he knew I could do it. My heart is broken.

“You were our charming, handsome, and funny hero. Guess how much I love you. I love you to the moon and back.”

Read: ‘Captain, colleague, daughter, sister, mum, friend and hero’ – Captain Dara Fitzpatrick is laid to rest

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