A POPULAR London Irish man whose poignant life story typifies that of many who came to work in Britain in the 1950s will be buried in Ireland thanks to the generosity of the community here.
Denis Guiney, originally from Co. Kerry but a long-time London resident, died on November 23, aged 71.
And now to honour his wishes to be laid to rest in Ireland a group of Kerry people, including Diaspora Minister Jimmy Deenihan, have come together to ensure he receives a worthy send-off.
A well-known and much-loved character in Kilburn and Cricklewood, his story is one all too familiar within the Diaspora having worked as a labourer for many years, before succumbing to alcoholism.
Latterly, the writer Edna O’Brien spent significant time with the Irishman while researching her latest book.
Following a funeral on Wednesday at St Agnes Church in Cricklewood, Denis’ ashes travelled to Ireland to be buried alongside his parents in Clogher, Ballymacelligott, Tralee.
Charlotte Curran, National Health Coordinator with the Irish in Britain, first encountered the Irishman some 20 years ago.
She spoke of his desire not to be buried on British soil but to be laid to rest in Ireland.
“I was working with Cricklewood Homeless Concern (CHC) when Denis came first as a customer,” she said. “We helped him as best we could, and Denis, being the likeable, very popular man that he was, became a volunteer and then started helping us.”
At the time Cricklewood Homeless Concern looked after over 100 clients who were supported with housing, welfare and basic needs such as food, clothing and showers.
She added: “He often referred to himself as a failure and used alcohol to help manage that. I believe it was loneliness and a sense of disconnection that brought about this feeling of failure.
“At one stage Denis believed the answer to addressing his sense of ‘failure’ would be to reconnect with his community back at home.
"So we arranged this through the Safe Home programme — but he returned to London telling us he couldn’t connect as Ireland had changed and he had changed. His home was now Kilburn.”
Over the last few years Denis’ health deteriorated but he continued to receive support through Ashford Place (previously CHC) until his death.
“He had asked me to ensure that, when his time came, that he would go home, and would I ensure that happened,” Ms Curran said. “He said he didn’t want to be buried in British soil.”
That wish has been made possible through the financial support of Dan Sullivan from Danny Sullivan Group, while Diaspora Minister Jimmy Deenihan has arranged for a service to take place in Brosna where Denis grew up.