This past week 100 years ago, would have been a most stressful week for the people in the parish of Rahoon, the people of Gurteen and the dioceses of Clonfert and Galway, as family, friend, parishioners and colleagues of Fr Michael Griffin struggled with the shock of his disappearance, and as well fearing the worst, searching for the whereabouts of his body.
Having a dignified funeral and burial for departed members of any community is a natural and precious means of honouring the life of the person and sharing in the grief of the stricken family. Retrieval of the body, therefore, would have been so important.
His body was located around 4.30 pm on Saturday afternoon 20th by William Duffy as the darkness of November began to invade whatever trace of daylight remained. Word was circulated to the neighbours who quietly rallied, so as not to bring undue attention to the military, and his body was brought to a safe location.
The wondering and hoping against hope that the priest might still be alive was now instantly quashed, and the focus shifted immediately towards securing the remains and ensuring that Fr Michael would be buried with dignity.
The very touching account of the dignified way his body was protected and treated that night, must have brought some consolation to his stricken family.
( The white garment on the table is Fr Griffin’s surplice)
That homage was evidenced in the care and attention they gave to cleaning the body. Then in a vigilant and prayerful manner, standing guard around his remains throughout the darkness of the night before finally ferrying his body, under cover, into the parish church of St. Josephs, where he was laid out for a time on the sacristy table
- which is still in use in the church to this present day.
After his body was discovered, in Fr Lee’s book we read:
‘The priests and locals held a council of war. The decision was taken that Fr Griffin’s body be taken away from the grave immediately lest the Tans come out to Cloughscoilte and take the body to a new grave. They decide to take the body some four hundred yards away, to a hollow, far from the roadside, where there was a little pool of water and Fr Griffins body could be cleaned and washed. It was also decided that the local men would bring the body by ass and cart to St. Joseph’s church in Presentation Road early the next morning. Here in the hollow in Duffy’s field the locals made a bed of straw and placed Fr Griffin’s body on it and began their vigil until the wake. Young James Griffin went back for sheets to cover the body. Margaret Lydon brought them to the hollow. Josie Fagan “gave out” the Rosary. A number of men stood on guard by the body during the night praying Rosary after Rosary.
Fr Griffin 1892 – 1920 Pádraic Ó Laoi P.41
So many household names of families living in the area were involved that night many of whom are listed in the literature. As I mentioned, on a dark, sad and tragic night, their kind deed was the one glimmer of light emerging. Even in the grimmest of circumstances; goodness, respect and kindness begins to rekindle a ray of hope.
When I think of that night of the 20th November, I think of another poignant ritual which happened around the broken body of another corpse shown the same respect so many centuries previously:
“Joseph of Arimathea, a good and righteous man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down and wrapped it in a linen shroud, and laid him in a rock-hewn tomb, where no one had ever yet been laid. The women who had come with him from Galilee followed and saw the tomb, and how the body was laid; then they returned and prepared spices and ointments.”. Luke 23: 52- 5
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dhilis.