The men and women of Derry came out in their hundreds yesterday to lay to rest a man who will go down in history as the ‘People’s Bishop’.
More than 1,000 mourners packed into St Eugene’s Cathedral, while hundreds more gathered in the grounds and along the perimeter railings, to pay their respects as Bishop Edward Daly was laid to rest.
Local people stood side by side with Ireland’s most senior clergy, President Michael D. Higgins, representatives from Pope Francis and the Queen of England, and more than 60 relatives of Bishop Daly as they waited for the service to begin.
Outside, white and yellow flags bearing Bishop Daly’s coat of arms and his episcopal motto ‘Feed My Sheep’, were lowered to half mast, while in a poignant nod to a man who had done so much to bring communities together, the bells rang out at Protestant and Catholic churches across the city as the Requiem Mass got under way.
Among those who turned out was Derry native Anne Cushely, who had travelled from her home in Belfast. She said: “I was here on 31st March 1974 when he was first made bishop and he was always well thought of.
“We used to call him ‘Father Bingo’ - he organised the bingo to raise money for St Columb’s Parish Hall. He was also involved with the pantomimes.
“He always was a people person and he touched base with everybody. His humility was disarming.”
Her sister Mo Durkan added: “He was just a very humble person. He was a man for everybody and he made everybody feel respected.”
The sisters also spoke of how he had been “part of the fabric” of the Foyle Hospice and had proved such a comfort to so many during his ministry there.
Geraldine Doherty from the Waterside said:“He was a born gentleman, a real people person who cared about everybody.”
Dozens of bishops and priests, their striking white and red vestments billowing in the wind, filtered into the Cathedral alongside clergy of other denominations, as the trickle of mourners who had been arriving all morning quickly turned into a flood in the hour before the funeral got under way.
Throughout the two-hour Requiem Mass, those gathered bowed their heads over special Mass booklets as a succession of warm tributes were paid and fond memories relayed by Archbishop Eamon Martin and Bishop McKeown among others.
And as the Mass drew to a close the clergy led the procession, followed by the Cathedral choristers in their blue gowns, and finally the pallbearer priests with Bishop Daly’s coffin.
Spontaneous applause for the man he was, the life he led, and the legacy he has left, erupted both inside and outside the Cathedral as his remains passed by.
A guard of honour was formed at the Cathedral doors consisting of players and representatives from Bishop Daly’s beloved Derry City FC, kitted out in their club tracksuits, and his colleagues and friends from the Foyle Hospice, many of whom wiped away tears as their gaze followed the coffin of the man they had all loved so well.
But as he was taken the short distance to his final place of rest within the Cathedral grounds, there were more smiles than tears as the onlookers reflected on a man who had been a spiritual shepherd and a down-to-earth friend and confidante to thousands.
And one of those who perhaps knew him best, Kay Duddy, who lost her brother Jackie on Bloody Sunday, summed up the mood when she said:
“He was a gentleman who has done such amazing work, and he spoke it as he saw it. “He will be sorely missed in this town.”