Cork claims the longest and shortest funerals in the world, writes Jim McKeon
The quintessential Corkman has a burning pride in all things Cork and, at the drop of a hat, he will rattle off all the unique facts about his beloved city; the highest building in Irish republic, the longest building, the longest street, the shortest street, the best hurlers, the best pubs, and, of course, the friendliest people. At times the list can be endless.
Then, a few years back, I discovered two more fascinating records about Cork. At the time I had been ill and hardly left the house but every Friday, writer Richard T. Cooke, called to my home and we walked and talked all the way to Curraghkippane Cemetery four miles away, near Kerry Pike.
Richard, a great man to talk, was like a breath of fresh air. Most cemeteries are now laid out like manicured lawns. Curraghkippane is different, rugged, rocky and brimful of headstones going back three hundred years.
As we sat there in the sunshine, looking down on the beautiful Lee valley away in the distance below, Richard reminded me of two more Cork achievements; the longest and shortest funerals in the world.
Both events played out very near where we were sitting. The shortest funeral in the world occurred when Mary Desmond died early in 1920.
Her family home stood up against the wall of the cemetery. Her funeral was on a bitter cold November day.
The roads around her home were frozen over and the horse-drawn hearse couldn’t make it. The coffin was carried sideways in through the front door. When the body was placed in the coffin her family removed the back window looking into the graveyard. The coffin was passed out through it and Mary was buried only feet away.