Eddie Kelly's Funeral

On hearing the news that Eddie Kelly had passed away at his home in London I contacted John Mc Laughlin .We decided we should attend Eddie’s funeral as he was a close neighbour of mine and was John’s friend from his Springtown Camp days.  I had been speaking to Aggie,  Eddie’s wife and  Lena and Kathleen, Eddie’s sisters by phone . I had arranged to meet Lena at our hotel in London, the day before the funeral . It was 45 years since I last saw Lena and Kathleen, so I was looking forward to seeing my old Springtown Camp neighbours once again.When we arrived at our hotel, Lena was waiting for us and when we finally met in the foyer, all the memories came flooding back to us .We talked about our childhood days in the camp.  We talked about old friends and neighbours. We laughed most of the night about things that happened in the camp. Lena’s husband of 35 years Keith, a nice, quiet humble man could only look and listen as Lena and I rambled on and on about our Springtown Camp childhood. Keith interrupted us.“Willie, if you want to see Eddie, you would need to be going down to the funeral parlour as it closes at 6pm.” John and myself got a taxi to the Chelsea funeral parlour. We rang the door bell .A sombre looking gentleman with a soft voice answered the door.“ Good afternoon gentlemen, can I be of assistance?” he asked, in a nice cultured southern Irish brogue. “We are here to see a friend of ours, Eddie Kelly,” I replied.?“ Of course. This way please.” He showed us to the funeral parlour where he left us on our own. Eddie Kelly was beautifully laid out in his best clothes with the Irish tricolour draping his coffin, a lovely touch I thought. Sure it’s always nice to see someone who doesn’t forget where he came from.  We said our prayers and returned to our hotel.We again met Lena and her husband Keith and went out to have dinner with them and after dinner we went to The Kelly home where we met Aggie and her family. Kathleen Kelly was also there. Once again we all started to chat about the Camp. After several hours we returned to our hotel . Next morning we were up early, had breakfast and got the train back to the Kelly home to await the remains of Eddie Kelly.

"where drivers and pedestrians alike gave way to this Irishman on his final journey to his resting place"

When Eddie’s remains arrived, many flowers were placed on his hearse. They looked an impressive sight. We all filed in to a large line of funeral cars, and set off for the funeral mass.  As we followed Eddie’s coffin to the chapel I thought to myself  what a beautiful sight as the sun shone brightly on Eddie Kelly’s tricolour draped coffin as it was driven through the packed streets of London where drivers and pedestrians alike gave way to this Irishman on his final journey to his resting place. ?We were greeted as we arrived at the chapel by other friends of Eddie’s,including Bobby Edgar and Bobby Pickett both from Derry. I was privileged to be asked by Eddies’s wife, Aggie and his family to say a few words on behalf of the ex Springtown Camp people at the mass. I was asked by the undertaker to keep it brief. I told of the time when I, as a very young boy was walking out to Springtown Camp by the Aluminum’s when I was threatened by a group of older teenagers. I was scared and was sure I was about to get a hammering. Then I heard this voice from behind me. ?“What’s the matter young Deery?” It was Eddie Kelly. I told him, “Them boys are going to hit me!!” “That’s what they think.” he said and with a swift clip around one of their ears they soon took flight. Eddie Kelly was my hero from that day on. I have never forgot that day. I never forgot his mother Maggie either. I told Lena and Kathleen I still can see Maggie’s face in front of me , every crease on her face ,every strand of hair, her flowered colour apron.  I told the congregation that I brought the sympathy and prayers of  every ex Springtown Camp person to Eddie’e wife , family and friends and that on this day it was right to mourn Eddie and yes even to shed a tear but also to be happy for Eddie as he was now in a better place to-day than us. He was with his mother Maggie and many other friends who have gone before him. As I said, I was told to keep my words brief. I would like to have said that Eddie Kelly took his wife and young family the same route as many, many Derry people took back in the early 60’s in the search for better housing and a job which would enable him to bring up his young family in better circumstance than were afforded to him in the land of his birth. Indeed I stood as a young boy in Springtown Camp and watched as many a family headed for the gate of the camp to catch a bus to Derry to catch a train to Belfast, to catch a boat to England, the emigration boat., some never to return to their homeland ever again. Thankfully these days are over and over for good as Ireland at last takes its place among the nations of the free world in offering its citizens proper housing and employment. I hope never again will people like Eddie Kelly be forced to leave their family their friends, the land of their birth in search of proper housing and employment in which to bring up their children. As Eddie was lowered in to his resting place at the foot of the last tree on the left of the cemetery I couldn’t but think it was just like the tree beside our hut in Springtown Camp.

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