The Inishowen-based Councillor and publican, who lived in Culdaff, passed away last Saturday at the age of 77.
Hundreds of people lined the streets both on Sunday as Colr McGuinness’ remains travelled home and on Wednesday, as he was laid to rest.
His funeral Mass was celebrated by his long-time friend, Fr Jim McGonagle and concelebrated by Culdaff PP Fr Brian Brady and CC Fr Karl Haan at St Mary’s Church, Bocan, Culdaff, on Wednesday.
Fr McGonagle said that Colr McGuinness’ life was ‘about service,’ but that he was also much more than that - he was a family man, a publican, shopkeeper, a farmer, gardener, beekeeper and faithful parishioner.
“A man who was involved in everything in this community. Anything at all that was going on, Bernard was at the heart of it, the centre of it, giving it his full support and being very generous with it.”
Fr McGonagle outlined how, on Saturday evening, when ‘word began to filter back from Galway that Bernard McGuinness was at the point of death, there was disbelief and shock. And then, when word came through on Saturday night that he had died, there was a respectful acceptance that God had called and he had answered.’
Fr McGonagle told how, over the last few days, local media have been ‘glowing in their tributes’ to Bernard for the work and service he gave to the people of Donegal and Inishowen as a councillor for 42 years.
While this was hugely important to him, Fr McGonagle said he also wanted to concentrate on the Bernard outside of public life, the ‘man that we knew, that we loved, that we argued with, that we fought with, that we played golf with - very badly- that we sang with, - very beautifully - the man who was a farmer, a shopkeeper, a publican, a gardener, a beekeeper, a community worker, a faithful parishioner, a man who was involved in everything in this community and anything at all that was going on, Bernard was at the heart of it, the centre of it, giving his full support and being very generous with it.”
Fr McGonagle gave an overview of Colr McGuinness’ early life. Born on February 8, 1944, he sadly lost his mother as an infant and was raised by his father, Johnny and aunt Bridget. He went to school in Bocan and at the Boys’ School and then the Technical School in Carndonagh.
“I think he couldn’t get back quick enough to the life he really loved: his farming and shopkeeping and bar and that’s what he spent all his life at.”
He then got involved in politics and ‘gave his heart and soul to that’.
Fr McGonagle said Colr McGuinness’ family and friends were the most important things in his life. He recently celebrated his Golden Wedding Anniversary with his wife, Jan and he was a devoted father to Maria, Jean, Johnny, Ross and Gregory and much-loved grandfather.
Mourners heard how Colr McGuinness also had a ‘second family’ in Mary Crua and her ‘merry band of workers’ within his business.
They were ‘part and parcel of his family.’
“Their loyalty to him was complete and his loyalty to them was the same.”
Fr McGonagle said that a man like Colr McGuinness, who ‘lived a tireless life,’ had to have some kind of recreation and he found that in his garden.
“He was never happier than when he was in his garden, listening to the birds and the bees and when visitors arrived, he was very proud of showing them his vegetables.”
Mourners heard how he was also a dedicated beekeeper and, as is tradition, his fellow beekeepers, along with his family conducted a ceremony called ‘Telling the Bees or Talking to the Bees.’
“They knock at the hive and say to the bees: ‘Your keeper has passed away, feel free to stay or go.’
Fr McGonagle also outlined how Colr McGuinness had a strong faith and was involved in the Church choir.
“He was always here, as a member of the choir, Sunday after Sunday and always receiving the Holy Eucharist, as his faith was so important to him,”
Among the restricted numbers inside the church and the many gathered outside, mourners included the Tanaiste and leader of Fine Gael, Deputy Leo Varadkar’s representative, Captain Miles Kelleher; Donegal Cathaoirleach Colr Jack Murray and Leas-Cathaoirleach Colr Martin McDermott; Donegal County Council Chief Executive John McLaughlin and fellow Donegal County Councillors, past and present.
As the Requiem Mass drew to close, Colr McGuinness’ son, Johnny, spoke to thank family, friends and the local community for their kindness and support and for coming out in such numbers to accompany his father and family home to Culdaff on Sunday.
He told how his father, ‘didn’t just belong to us, but to the whole community.’
Mr McGuinness said he hoped that, in the near future, his father’s life will be able to be celebrated with less restrictions and ‘more freedom.’
“Thank you all for the kindness you have shown to us over the last few days,” he said.