Belfast Telegraph

Last round of applause as musician Eamon Friel laid to rest

Funeral of broadcaster Eamon Friel takes place at St Eugene’s Cathedral in Derry
Funeral of broadcaster Eamon Friel takes place at St Eugene’s Cathedral in Derry
Funeral of broadcaster Eamon Friel takes place at St Eugene’s Cathedral in Derry
Eamon Friel
Leona O'Neill

By Leona O'Neill

Mourners at the funeral of singer and BBCNI broadcaster Eamon Friel clapped for one last time yesterday to show their appreciation for the "sunshine and joy" he brought to their lives.

The 69-year-old died in Altnagelvin Hospital on Friday after a short battle with cancer.

Hundreds of mourners, including many of his BBC colleagues packed into St Eugene's Cathedral in Londonderry for his Requiem Mass.

Speaking to those gathered, Father Paddy O'Kane, a close friend of Mr Friel, said that he left a "rich legacy which will be cherished for generations to come".

The former teacher began his broadcasting career in the 1980s presenting Friel's Fancy on Radio Foyle, which ran for three decades.

In recent years he presented Songbook with Eamon Friel on Radio Foyle and Radio Ulster. His albums included The Streets Forget, Here Is The River and The Waltz Of The Years.

Fr O'Kane told mourners how Mr Friel had also been a teacher in London, with Republic of Ireland footballer Ray Houghton and Sex Pistol John Lydon among his past pupils.

He made the congregation laugh as he told the story of his summers spent in his mother's county of Mayo, where "once he saw a cow drink freshly made poteen and lay unconscious for two days".

Fr O'Kane said that his family - wife Caitlin, son Colum and granddaughter Milla - have been left "with a wealth of precious memories".

"A few months ago Eamon became unwell," he said.

"It was later that cancer was diagnosed.

"He spent eight days in Altnagelvin Hospital before he was discharged.

"His son Colum showed me a video clip of him singing a children's song with his beloved granddaughter Milla on Father's Day.

"She was using the broom as a mic, Caitlin was on the piano. What a wonderful memory."

Fr O'Kane told mourners that Mr Friel had left a lasting legacy.

"He was witty, fun loving, yet at the same time private and humble," he said.

"He carried his genius lightly. He has been described as our own Derry bard in the truest tradition.

"Another friend said that Eamon could make the ordinary, extraordinary for he had a sharp eye and a poet's insight to describe beauty that the rest of us might miss.

"He was one of life's true gentlemen and you left him feeling better.

"He had the ability to lift your spirits.

Colum, his son, told me that he was such a generous and loving dad and grandad.

"He was jovial, kind, gentle, open, cheerful and cultured, who loved to entertain. He had the ability to marry melody and lyrics in a unique way. He was a master craftsman.

"Peter Johnston, BBC director NI, said he was a musical curator with infectious enthusiasm, a distinctive voice and style of broadcast. For Eamon could weave his script like a tapestry and had a brilliant turn of phrase. He has left us a rich legacy which will be cherished for generations to come."

Fr O'Kane concluded his homily with the words from Between The Day And Night by Eamon, and asked the congregation to pray for the "man who brought such sunshine and warmth into all our lives".

He called on the congregation to clap - just as at the end of a performance - to show their appreciation for the man who "entertained us and brought so much joy into our lives".

Following his Requiem Mass, Mr Friel was buried in Derry's City Cemetery.

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