He passed through this life but once. And he more than made his mark

Finbarr with a hand-written letter he received in 2004 from the Aga Khan, one of the many people around the world he corresponded with

THE dark overhead clouds and heavy March mist seemed very appropriate as Killarney bid a fond and emotional final farewell to one of its favourite sons this Monday as the late Finbarr Slattery was laid to rest in Aghadoe.

A gentle, caring, warm and incredibly intelligent man, who was always interesting and, equally impressively, always interested, he packed so much into his 91 years and there is scarcely an event in Killarney that he didn’t lend his expertise to during the course of his long and fruitful life.

His time as an agricultural advisor helping farm families on a daily basis, as secretary/manager at Killarney racecourse, as a successful author, as a great scholar, as a respected newspaper columnist of 30 years, as a voracious reader and prolific letter writer, as a valuable and knowledgeable authority on Irish and world affairs and as a model citizen of a town he loved is already well documented.

But at St Mary’s Cathedral in Killarney today, he was remembered as a devoted and loving husband, father, grandfather and friend, who did enormous good in his long life and never, ever, had a bad word to say about anyone.

The principal celebrant at Finbarr’s Requiem Mass, Fr Kieran O’Brien, remembered him a saintly man, one of life’s gentlemen, with never a cross word to utter.

“He had many friends and was well known in the parish, in the town and in the county of Kerry. Finbarr was a very peaceful and a very gentle man. His shoes will be hard to fill,” he said.

Finbarr discussing the affairs of the nation with former senior government minister and Ceann Comhairle John O’Donoghue

The congregation was told that Finbarr had a huge amount of knowledge and information and wisdom and he was always willing to share it.

“There wasn’t a topic in the world that he couldn’t talk about. If you were looking for advice it wasn’t Google but it was ‘ask Finbarr’ and if you got Finbarr’s approval you knew you were on the right track,” Fr O’Brien said.

He added that Finbarr had great faith and he often told him that one of his many daily prayers, entitled For a Holy Rest, prayed for a happy death. He once told Fr O’Brien that once he reached the age of 75, every year after that would be a bonus. Finbarr, thankfully, had 16 bonus years.

“On Saturday afternoon, Finbarr’s prayer was answered when he bowed out of this life,” he said.

Fr O’Brien added that God was wise enough to wait until Cheltenham was over and, in his final days, although he was very weak, Finbarr was kept fully informed on all the winners and the other news of the day.

“We were able to tell him after Friday that Dr Crokes had won the All-Ireland club final and that brought a great smile to a dying man.

Finbarr’s legacy to racing, his book Following the Horses, published in 1996

“He had such a great interest in this town. Cycling his bike, meeting and greeting with a wave and a smile is how he will be remembered,” Fr O’Brien added.

Finbarr’s daughter, Sinead, told the congregations that her “Pop” was a saint on earth who was devoted to his wife, Carmel, his three daughters, Aideen, Sinead and Niamh, and his seven granddaughters.

“He always said to us, ‘I married the best woman in the world and you have the best mother in the world’,” she said.

Sinead said Finbarr shared his favourite poem with his family on a daily basis and it encapsulated his wonderful philosophy and love of life. It read:

“I shall pass through this world but once
Therefore any good deed I can do, let me do it now
Let me not defer or neglect it
Because I shall not pass this way again”.