5. Funeral of the Old Man

FUNERAL OF THE OLD MAN
The cemetery was down by the sea. Many of the graves had collapsed and sunk. Some of the occupant’s bones were showing. There was a skull in the window of a crypt. It was small, perhaps that of a woman or a child. The owner of the skull probably died in the famine in the mid 1800s.

The coffin arrived in the back of a Commer van towed by O’ Driscoll’s two donkeys. It was the only vehicle on the island. It arrived on Brady father’s ferry back in the time when whiskey was plentiful after the SS Wisteria ran aground with a hold full of it. He ran the van on the stuff for a week but a combination of potholes and burnt out piston rings virtually consigned it to the scrap heap.

There were a dozen or so people following the coffin. It was raining steadily. Both Siobhan & Sean were there, Wingnut had found his way there as well, scratching as usual but mainly on one side, after all, he was bald on the other side. Gimpy always attended funerals. Sid was there with his trusty Halina camera. He’d knocked it off the kitchen table only yesterday along with the only milk he had in the house. He couldn’t decide which to catch first and in his deliberations both fell onto the tiled floor with a crash.

Miraculously the camera still worked infact it appeared to be working better than it was before even though milk was dripping out of the casing, but he had to have black coffee all day as the shop had run out of milk.

The rest of the mourners were made up of Mr and Mrs McCraig and Mr and Mrs Jackson, farmers from the south of the island along with four Belgian tourists who mistook Inishbog for Arran but decided to stay for a week in a tent anyway. The priest was on his way apparently but Brady had moored the Bluebell End ferry at the top of the landing at high tide, so they had to wait another 2 hours for the tide to come back in again and refloat it. He wasn’t the sharpest tool in the box. He was just a tool if truth were known.

The man from Prestons had decided to stay overnight in Egan’s, a bar owned by Joe and his wife Nora. It was just as well, as the weather had turned stormy and the priest was stuck over in Bluebell End for the night. Pat unhooked the two donkeys to take them home but they preferred to stand where they were in the rain. There would be no funeral until the weather was calm enough to let the priest sail the 900 metres from Bluebell End to Inishbog. Sometimes it could be days. The small congregation of mourners dispersed slowly then as the rain suddenly turned into driving sleet, a 200 yard dash ensued towards the bar.

It was bright and sunny the next morning. The sea was flat calm. The coffin remained in the car all night but the donkey’s had disappeared.
Brady’s ferry was on it’s way. As he nonchalantly leant on the old wooden tiller, he looked suspiciously at the 3 passengers he had aboard, just like he always did even though he knew them. He looked down with his head up because he thought it gave him an air of superiority.

Again, it started to rain half way through the graveside ceremony. The priest did what he had to and by the time the brief ceremony was over, everyone was soaked to the skin, apart from the Belgian tourists, who weren’t there. They’d spent all night in Ciaran’s Cave after their tents had been uprooted by the storm and were probably mid Atlantic by now. It rained so heavy the grave began to fill with water. If the old man wasn’t dead when he went into the coffin, he would be now, drowned.

The gravedigger, Arthur, was sheltering under tree out of the rain. It was leafless so he was leaning against the trunk downwind in a futile attempt to keep dry. He didn’t get paid and wasn’t in any hurry to either dig or fill the graves. Nobody was really bothered except when it was hot weather and the corpses started to smell. Sean started to fill in the grave. Arthur stood under a tree for a while, watching Sean, then decided to help him with the last few shovels full explaining in full, the mysteries of why you have to make a mound over the grave.