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Quote of the Week

'The lion sleeps- rest in peace, Cesar.'   Words attached to Sir Rod Stewart's wreath for Billy McNeill.


Rest in Peace, Billy McNeill

A week after the death of Celtic's legendary player and captain Billy McNeill, I decided to organise a 'tribute mass' to him in Cork.

Billy had played 882 times for Celtic and was capped over 30 times for Scotland. That decision made, I contacted Celtic and asked for their support in the form of a Celtic jersey with the name McNeill and the number 5 printed on it. In addition, I requested a large colour photograph of the player be sent as well. Being Celtic, both items arrived in Cork by courier. My final request was that the club be represented at the mass.

Two days before the date of the mass, 16th of May, Celtics PR woman contacted my daughter Katherine, who by then had become my personal assistant, telling her that two of Billy McNeill's LISBON LIONS team mates, Bobby Lennox and John Clark, would be flying to Cork to represent the club at the mass. No words of mine can describe my reaction to this news. The deputy Lord Mayor represented the city.

The local media such as the Cork Independent, Evening Herald and two local radio stations had all carried news of the mass. I had also contacted the two main Celtic supporter's clubs, one based at the Friars Walk Tavern and the other at Passage West. I am donating the jersey and the picture to the clubs. Waiting on the Evening Echo lady sports writer to return from holiday for her to report on the event.

I chose the African Missions church at Wilton, on the West side of Cork city because, as I mentioned in my speech before the mass, I had an emotional attachment to the place, having been a student in the adjoining college in the years 1950-52. I then pointed out the side chapel, behind where I was speaking from, and where I and my fellow students sat at 6.30 on a winter's morning.

Father Michael O'Leary SMA, was the chief celebrant and Fr. Kevin O'Connor SMA travelled down from Maynooth university to preach a fine sermon on Billy McNeill. At the offertory, Bobby Lennox and John Clark carried the jersey and photograph up to the sanctuary and presented them to Fathers O'Leary and O'Connor who then showed them to the congregation. The applause was loud and sustained from the pews.

A string trio from the Cork School of Music played for twenty five minutes before the beginning of mass, and Welsh tenor. Ryan Morgan, sang 'Abide With Me', 'The Lord is My Shepherd', 'Ave Maria' and Panis Angelicus. At the end of the mass, he led the Celtic supporters in a rousing rendition of ' 'You'll Never Walk Alone.' Only with great difficulty was I able to hold back the tears. on this most memorable of nights.

The deputy Lord. Mayor was due to leave thirty minutes after the start of the mass, but stayed on until the end. Daughter Katherine said to me in the church." Dad, I feel so much love here tonight." Finally, my grateful thanks to the sponsors for making the event possible. God bless you.


Rest in Peace, Billy McNeill.

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