Widespread sadness has been expressed following the death of Dun Purcell, a larger than life figure from Feakle.
Regarded as one of the biggest characters in East Clare, Dun died on Saturday aged 98. He lived his life to the full and did so through a Civil War, a World War and an Economic War.
In February of this year following an interview with The Clare Echo after overcoming COVID-19, Dun lifted the spirits of the county and later the nation when the country’s most listened to radio show, Morning Ireland picked up on the story and were treated to a musical rendition. Prior to COVID-19, he had been living on his own at Bauregegaun Cottage and was driving up until the month that he contracted the virus.
He also survived tuberculosis in his early twenties, after overcoming TB his doctor predicted that Dun would live a very long life.
Almost a decade ago, he was honoured by Bluebird Care as one of the finest examples of positive ageing. Last November, he was shortlisted as a nominee for Clare Older Person of the Year in recognition for running the Looking Forward Group for the past fifteen years
Beautiful music was a strong component of Dun’s funeral mass in Feakle on Tuesday. Fr Harry Bohan quipped at the beginning of the mass, “Dun would nearly be giving out to us for being late, he was never late in his life”. He added, “In many ways it is a happy occasion because it is a life to celebrate but it is a sad time too”.
Fr Harry felt it was fitting that Martin Hayes was among the musicians at the mass, “not only he is a Feakle legend but a national and international legend, Dun would be very proud to have him here”. It was possible for many people to write a book on the man that would have turned 99 in October.
A long-time friend, Fr Bohan detailed how Dun was akin to a fiddle with many strings to his bow as he referenced his passion for music, storytelling and sport. How Dun managed to adapt with the generations was praised by Fr Harry, “he was back into storytelling, he touched into the generations, he told his story to the younger generation”.
“Dun lived long but he never grew old and I can say that for certain, he never grew old,” the Sixmilebridge parish priest stated. “People who gave their lives for Ireland influenced Dun’s life a lot but he himself believed in living for Ireland and living for the community, he did it well”. He added, “Dun was a proud Irishman, a proud Clare man but above all he was a proud Feakle man and the local meant a lot to him”.
A letter from St Joseph’s Secondary School students in Tulla acknowledging Dun’s involvement in Living Scenes, an initiative that saw the older generation work with students was brought before the altar. “His visits to the school were legendary, his lack of political correctness went down well with the students. He loved meeting young people, he was selfish in that he would think they would be around a lot longer than some of the people he was friends with,” Matt Purcell recalled.
Matt also observed how Dun kept everyone on their toes including by ignoring the queue at The Sherwood Inn and instead sitting in beside people who were having meals on their own. He also quipped that his father’s walking stick was “the best preserved walking stick in the country”. Tess Purcell read aloud ‘Dun’s Time’, a poem written about her father’s final few weeks when he was cared for around the clock.
Members of the Purcell family were overwhelmed with the level of support, goodwill, sandwiches, rhubarb tarts, text messages and phone calls received since Dun’s death, Denis told the congregation.
“Dun was passionate about a lot of small things but they were really important to Dun, Fr Harry has spoke about Feakle and we can verify it, when Dun was low and I suppose his mind was exhausted all you had to do was ask him a question about Feakle or anyone in it and Dun came right back to us, he was there and back, he loved it and everyone in it, past and present,” Denis added. He spoke of the countless friendships made by his father due to car breakdowns and why golden wonders were among the few items that Dun believed were worth paying “a little bit over the odds for”.
Dun was predeceased by his wife Nancy, his sisters, Sister Mai (Bon Secours), Ita, Brid and Celine. His loss is deeply regretted by his children, Matt, Maurette, Tess, Kate and Denis, his sister Imelda Rodgers, his 11 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren, his brothers in law, sons and daughters in law, nieces and nephews and all his great neighbours and friends.