Belfast Telegraph

Rebel Catholic bishop Buckley buries Protestant Peggy (107), 'a shining example of tolerance'

By Suzanne Breen

A 107-year-old Presbyterian who requested to be buried by an independent Catholic clergyman sets a shining example to the rest of Northern Ireland, mourners at her funeral heard.

Bishop Pat Buckley said Peggy Dunbar from Ballyclare was an ordinary woman who embodied an extraordinary spirit of tolerance and reconciliation.

He was speaking to around 100 mourners who attended the funeral service for Mrs Dunbar in his independent Catholic Oratory in Larne on Saturday.

The dying wish of the Protestant, who was believed to be Northern Ireland's oldest woman, was that Bishop Buckley bury her. She had taken a shine to the rebel priest when he officiated at the marriage of her eldest daughter over 25 years ago.

Before the service Bishop Buckley stood at the gates of the Oratory to shake hands with mourners and welcome them to his church.

He told them: "Peggy Dunbar was a remarkable woman who defied the expectations society had of her.

"We think that when little old ladies turn on the TV they watch Mary Berry baking, The Antiques Roadshow, or Coronation Street and Emmerdale.

"Peggy watched Formula 1, football, rugby and (horse) racing."

The cleric said he was honoured to have been asked to officiate at Mrs Dunbar's funeral.

"Peggy had a native lack of prejudice which led her to relate to people on a one-to-one basis, regardless of religion or politics," he said.

"She is a shining example of the Northern Ireland we are still striving to create. This simple lady, who lived life far out of the headlines, has helped lay the foundations on which a better future can be built."

Mrs Dunbar, who would have celebrated her 108th birthday today, died of pneumonia last week.

Among the mourners were her two daughters Judith and Joan, and her son-in-law Seamus Tansey from Sligo, one of Ireland's best known flute players. It was at Mr Tansey's wedding to Joan that Mrs Dunbar first met Bishop Buckley. "I recognised then that she was a lady who enjoyed life to the full, who squeezed every last drop out of it," he told mourners.

"But she was nobody's fool and she was a stickler for table manners. She didn't hesitate to scold her son-in-law for adopting the more relaxed Sligo etiquette at the dinner table."

Bishop Buckley told the congregation that they had gathered together "not as members of one denomination or another, but as human beings and as Christians" to say goodbye to Mrs Dunbar.

He added: "Peggy lived for 39,215 days.

"Last Tuesday brought an end to her Earthly life but, as Christians, we believe she has entered a new dawn which will continue forever."

Local singer Loretta McNally sang the centenarian's favourite psalm, The Lord Is My Shepherd. Mourners, however, were then surprised when Bishop Buckley played a recording of one of Mrs Dunbar's favourite songs, When It's Springtime In The Rockies.

She was buried in Victoria Cemetery in Carrickfergus, where her late husband John was laid to rest in 1959 after dying tragically following a fall from a ladder.

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