|An tSeirbhís Chabhaigh.||
|AN OPEN LETTER TO THE MEN AND WOMEN OF THE IRISH NAVAL SERVICE.|
is a superb language. In
all it’s forms it allows us to express ourselves in prose, poetry,
lyric, technical and many other formats.
Yet, there are times that the language fails to provide
sufficient adjectives to describe what is before our eyes.
On these days the events are such that they stretch the
boundaries of the language and leave us gasping for superlatives.
was clear from the outset that this was going to be a day like no other.
Wed, 21st April 2004 was the day we laid our good
friend, your good friend and colleague, Dominic ‘Doggie’ Keaney to
we began to arrive at St. Colman’s Cathedral in Cobh, we were
immediately struck by the level of attention to detail that has become a
memorable hallmark of that day. Ratings,
Officers, Executive Branch, checked and double checked each others rig.
Microscopic dust was brushed from caps, lanyards adjusted,
collars checked for squareness, Ribbons adjusted.
This was no funeral detail; this was, truly, a labour of love.
we stood on the apron outside St. Colman’s Cathedral, we witnessed
what can genuinely be described as Military Precision. This phrase has
become synonymous in the press, with many unfortunate events throughout
the world. But not on this
day. This day is preserved in the memory of those who were privileged to
witness the event. We
watched you shoulder Doggie to the waiting gun carriage.
As surely as our hearts were breaking, we know yours were too.
As the Fleet sounded in the Harbour, you broke our hearts for the
first of many times that day. Heads
were bowed, lest someone see the private tears.
As we looked up Sandymount and viewed the funeral cortege, the
perfectly symmetrical lines of hats, ribbons moving in total unison,
footsteps synchronized, you lifted our spirits and brought us with you.
cortege executed a perfect 90 degree turn at the intersection of
Midleton St. and Bishop’s St. At
this junction stood hundreds of local schoolchildren just out on their
lunch break. They stood,
awestruck at the scene unfolding in front of them. In the 21st
century, school kids are more likely to be impressed by the latest
innovations in special effects and technologically aided computer games. On this day, such was your precision, I have no doubt many of
these schoolchildren became the future of the Irish Naval Service.
Some of these school kids will form the future ratings, officers
and executive level. Perceptions
have changed immeasurably.
Bishop’s Street, you stopped outside Doggie and Fionnghuala’s home.
The ribbons that floated suddenly stopped; stillness descended
and you broke our hearts again. “Go
Mear Mairsáil” was clearly audible, the symmetry returned, you lifted
our spirits and brought us with you again.
The camber, contour and line of the Carrignafoy Road was clearly
defined by the rows of hats all moving as one; a cartographers dream!
Philip O’Neill Place, we walked between the personnel who formed the
final Guard of Honour.
bowed, white gloved, arms at rest - total symmetry, not a hat, glove,
epaulette, bobbin or ribbon out of place.
Military Honours are highly charged and emotive.
This day was hugely emotional for all of us as we laid to rest
our friend and colleague. At
the graveside, you broke our hearts for one last time, and in showing
such an enormous degree of love, compassion, and respect for Doggie you
lifted our spirits and brought us with you for one final time.
has been said that it takes a considerable man to change people’s
minds. Surely it is a
formidable man who can change perceptions.
For some unknown reason the Irish Naval Service has always been
referred to as ‘The Navy’. On
Wednesday 21st April, 2004, that changed.
You became ‘Our Navy’. Such
is the change in perception wrought.
in death, Doggie rang the changes.
He would have been so, so proud of you all.
We, his ‘Civvie’ friends, are hugely proud of the honour you
honouring your friend and colleague Doggie, you honoured yourselves.
is a maritime town that frequently pays host to visiting naval vessels
from other countries. The
abilities of these navies will be measured against the sheer
professionalism of Our Navy, ladies and gentlemen, for that indeed is
what you are, you have raised the bar for all others to follow.
The standards you have set will be the measure by which all
future visiting navies will be assessed.
If they fall below, we will surely remind them - they may have
bigger ships, more sophisticated weaponry, but they can never be as good
as ‘Our Navy’.
you ever know that you're all heroes?
can fly higher than an eagle