Cork air tragedy: Rural community mourns a devoted son who never forgot his roots
St Patrick's Church in Cranagh is a tiny chapel that serves a scattered, rural community. But yesterday hundreds of people from that community gathered for the funeral of Pat Cullinan (45), one of the six men who lost their lives in the plane crash at Cork Airport.
The pain and sorrow of Mr Cullinan’s mother Rose was evident on her face as she struggled to follow behind as her devoted son's coffin was carried into the chapel by his devastated brothers Aidan, Keiran and Seamus.
His sister Mary Rose, fiancée Tina and sisters-in-law all carried red roses, a poignant reminder of St Valentine's Day, as they entered the chapel which could barely contain all those who wanted to pay their respects.
Parish Priest Fr Joseph O'Connor led prayers for Mr Cullinan and the other five victims of the February 10 crash: Brendan McAleese, Michael Evans, Spanish pilot Jordi Sola Lopez, his co-pilot Andrew Cantle and businessman Richard Noble.
Fr O'Connor told the mourners of Mr Cullinan's devotion to his mother.
He paid tribute to “a devoted son who never forgot his roots” in a moving homily.
The priest said that while he did not know Mr Cullinan because he lived in Belfast, over the past days he had learned a lot about him from his mother.
He added: “Although Pat worked in Belfast he came home to his roots whenever he could, and she told me he called her every single day and sent her presents from wherever in the world he happened to be.
“He was also a good and loyal friend and distance was nothing to him if he thought someone needed him.
“He was also a very generous man and Tyrone GAA found in him a donor par excellence.”
Fr O'Connor also described Mr Cullinan’s journey from his humble rural roots in Cranagh to becoming a partner in one of Ireland's largest accountancy firms.
He said: “Pat went to the little primary school just behind this chapel and then went on to the high school in Plumbridge where his teachers still remember him as a friendly little boy, who even then showed signs of exceptional intelligence which eventually led him to Queen's University.
“Education meant everything to Pat and after a few years he qualified in accountancy and then he worked his way up the ladder of success.”
Mr Cullinan's fellow passengers who died with him were not forgotten yesterday as Fr O'Connor listed them one by one. They were also included in the Prayers of the Faithful which were led by the nieces and nephews of the dead man.
The love they had for their uncle was clear from the emotion in their voices as they prayed not only for the happy repose of his soul but also for the family, friends and work colleagues that Mr Cullinan has left behind.
As Mr Cullinan's brothers raised his coffin onto their shoulders one last time and led the congregation to the adjacent graveyard, the biting wind that had blown all morning had turned to snow, but none of the family seemed to notice.
After Fr O'Connor said the prayers at the graveside the roses, which had been carried into the chapel, were placed on Mr Cullinan's coffin in a poignant final gesture.