I have returned from my journey to London, which was for the ceremony to honor Louis Brennan, my first cousin four times removed. Without exaggerating, this was the best trip I have ever taken. I had been aware of the plans to honor this Irish inventor for many years, but I had no expectations whatsoever. Was the grandeur overstated by my liaison in Ireland, Brian Hoban, or was this event to be as well-attended as he had promised? Would the arrival of my husband and me be noticed and, if the ceremony drew a crowd, would we find a seat?
Thanks to Facebook, I had no difficulty locating Brian when we arrived at their hotel in London. Within a short time, we were introduced to the contingent from Castlebar, who had arrived on the Sunday prior to the unveiling ceremony. I was surprised that they all knew who we were, which should have been a clue as to what would come.
Monday morning we all went to Kensal Green Cemetery—a very long walk and relatively short ride on the London Tube from our hotel. We were able to view the plaque on the wall and the beautiful headstone in private, which enabled us to take pictures “before the arrival of the crowds on Tuesday.”
St. Mary’s is the Roman Catholic cemetery adjacent to Kensal Green Cemetery, built over one hundred fifty years ago.
The church was small, seating about one hundred fifty people and contained many memorial plaques on the walls. Louis Brennan’s now had a place of honor toward the front of the chapel. That afternoon, I learned I would be one of five individuals saying a short prayer after the homily by Monsignor Canon Thomas Egan. Fortunately, this surprise honor was sprung on me with little time to get nervous.
The next morning we left our hotel early enough to stop for a bite to eat, and then arrived at the church ahead of the crowd. We were told that although the church only held one hundred fifty people, possibly four hundred were expected to come. Before entering the chapel, I was delighted to see that a bagpiper would be part of the ceremony. No details were omitted. No Irish memorial service would be complete without a bagpiper present.
Now the question as to whether we would have a seat was answered when we were told we would be seated in row one, alongside the Irish Prime Minister, Brigadier General Paul Fry of the Irish Air Corps and Ireland’s UK ambassador Daniel Mulhall. It was, to say the least, more than I ever expected.
The ceremony in the church included two readings from the Bible, a homily by Monsignor Egan, and a lovely tribute by An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, outlining the accomplishments of Louis Brennan and the Irish people. It was quite impressive and wonderful to hear that the grave of Louis Brennan would no longer be just known as plot Number 2454.
The ceremony ended by the saying of the Lord’s Prayer and singing of the Irish National Anthem, both in Gaelic.
Off we went to the grave site led, of course, by the kilted gentleman with the bagpipe.
After the laying of the wreaths by The Prime Minister; Noreen Heston, Mayor of Castlebar; Captain Vincent McEllin from the Irish Guards Regiment; Australian Commander Dylan Findlater and me, there were a lot of photographs to be taken. My husband and I were invited to pose in many, which was, again, not anticipated.
We chatted, and when Mr. Kenny learned I was originally from New Jersey, he immediately spoke of The Boss–Bruce Springsteen. That was a conversation to make my friends and family back in New Jersey proud.
Until that day, I thought the best party I ever attended was New Year’s Eve 2006 in Times Square, New York City. However, that party has now been eclipsed by the party at Flannery’s Bar in Wembley, where the reception after the ceremony was held.
The final surprise of the day was when I was presented by a lovely Louis Brennan Memorial Plaque from the Castlebar Memorial Committee, followed by laughter, tears, and the singing of several Irish songs by everyone in the bar. It was a day I will remember forever!