A FORMER priest and good friend of an elderly Irishman who passed away in a London nursing home is appealing for mourners to attend his funeral in Ireland.
Former Columban Fathers priest Brian Boylan lost his close companion of more than 40 years, Joseph Tuohy, earlier this summer.
Brian, who runs the St Gabriel’s Homeless Centre in the English capital, used to visit Tuohy several times a week and has been working with St Joseph’s Pastoral Centre volunteer Margaret Brown, to ensure his friend enjoys a proper send-off.
The plan is to transport Joseph’s cremated remains over to Ireland for a special service and burial at St Joseph’s Church in Glasthule, Co Dublin, on September 27.
A very private man, Joseph died alone at his north London nursing home, having lost contact with his family in Ireland in heart-breaking circumstances at the age of just five.
Born in Toomevara, Co Tipperary, Tuohy’s mother actually became pregnant while working in New York.
Abandoned by Joseph’s father, she returned home to raise her son on her own but found life difficult as an unmarried mother living in Ireland.
When Joseph was just five, he was taken away from his mother after slipping and burning his leg on an open fire.
He spent the next decade living in the unforgiving atmosphere of Ireland’s many religious-run orphanages before working as a tailor in the St Joseph’s Industrial School in Clonmel, Co Tipperary.
Emigrating to London in his late teens, Joseph never returned to Ireland, leaving behind his painful childhood and a family he never knew.
Despite such hardship, Brian only speaks in glowing terms about his friend, telling the Irish Times: “He was one of the finest human beings that I ever met, full of compassion.”
Now he is urging anyone in the Co Tipperary area to come out in force to show their respects.
“This man is symbolic of a hidden suffering, and we should never forget our people. We come from a great people who are loyal to one another. They deserve our respect,” he told the Irish Times.
“I know Joe would take solace from the fact that his life story, which was full of pain, may help others on their own and encourage them to seek help.”
“It would be wonderful to see as many mourners as possible at his funeral.”
The funeral Mass will be held at 10am on September 27 in St Joseph’s Church, Glasthule, Co Dublin. Anyone who can attend is encouraged to do so.