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In memory of Hugh McAteer

Celebrant Very Reverend Gerry Powell P.P.






                     Homily: Hugh Mc Ateer

There is we know a time for mourning and a time for joy. These two emotions will surely find a place together in our hearts today. At the end of Hugh’s long life it is maybe that the need to praise God is uppermost in our minds because it is so clear how rich God’s blessings have been to him:

“My soul give thanks to the Lord and never forget all his blessings”.

We are happy today because we know deep down that Hugh’s life was complete and he was ready for God. We have received much from him – always generous and thoughtful.

The lesson of old age is that of endurance and faith. In all our lives there are the valleys and the hills, the good times and the bad times, the successes and the failures, the joys and the sorrows. We are all given a certain number of years and those who live the longest become deeply aware that this time is not given so much for our enjoyment, but rather to work out our salvation.

As a member of a very caring profession Hugh is a great proof that Jesus of Nazareth is still alive and working among us, among the poor, the lame, the terminally ill, the overlooked and the forgotten – always a faithful servant with an attentive heart and healing hands – the constant pilgrim companion of the suffering.

Hugh bound up the wounds of the afflicted; he forgot his own pains in the face of another’s agony. Now that he has gone from us, in the words of the Gospel:

“Will the blind see, the deaf hear, the cripple walk and the poor know the good news of loving care?”

Hugh set the example for others to follow and his work goes on every hour of every day and night in quiet hospital wards, in residential care and nursing homes, in hospices, in special care centres. That work goes on whenever we stumble on our pilgrim path through life and the hand of the nurse like that of Hugh’s goes out to help us.

Hugh wiped the fevered brow of our sick wor ld – he felt the weak pulse and willed the patient back to recovery. We thank him for all his care and understanding and his complete generosity as a loving person.

Fanad Head, Co. Donegal, the next parish to New York, could arguably be considered one of the most beautiful places on earth as well as the birth place of Hughie Daniel McAteer and his ten other siblings. His mother Kate called him A Thiasce, meaning “My treasure”. Hugh often recalled many happy memories from his childhood; including farming the land, enjoying a few jigs at the ceilis and walks on the beach with his father – Daniel who was born in Melbourne, Australia 1886.

However as Hugh became a young man he realised he was destined for further fields and at the tender age of 19, he was accepted to undergo training in Brockhall Hospital, Blackburn – his caring nature evident already!

On Saturday 31st of May 1950, Hugh then left his native Donegal and travelled by bus to Belfast. At 10.30pm, the ship sailed away from the emerald isle towards a new land and new beginnings. This adventure went further than England though, as with £25, Hugh travelled by train through France, Austria, Italy and Switzerland to name a few! Undoubtedly these experiences were lasting memories as he often spoke about the people he met and the places he visited and in particular, seeing Red Hugh O Neill’s grave in Rome.

Hugh was deserving of these experiences too as he worked hard to also achieve his career goal. It wasn’t long before he became a qualified nurse and was keen to return home to Ireland again. Successfully he obtained a position in Bannvale special care hospital, Gilford, Co. Down – perhaps it’s a coincidence that his twin sister Cassie was also an established nurse in Guildford, Surrey, England?

When Hugh came to Gilford and he met his wife to be Kathleen who worked in Gaffney’s chemist where Hugh was a regular visitor for prescriptions and aspros I wonder why?? and have been married for the past 54 years.

Hugh was very proud of his roots and his culture and wore his gold Fainne every day and enjoyed having a chat in Irish

Hugh kept his friendly easy going Donegal way I am sure you all will recognise it. He would always put on a few extra spuds on in case someone called that needed a feed.

I am told High had an fanatic skill of being able to recount  dates of relatives and each day he could have said that today was a

  • Hugh just didn’t have a job, he had a vocation. He looked after adults with learning difficulty in Bannvale in Gilford although he did have other postings in the area. He treated the ‘Bannvale boys’ as they were affectionally known as, as his own. He cared about them so much and made them part of our own lives. Hugh worked for almost 37 years and retired early at the age of 59 and enjoyed pretty good health for many years.
  • Hugh is survived by his wife Kathleen, daughters Marian and Annette and son Sean and loved his grandchildren so much and he was very special to all of them Laura, Katherine, Andrew, Aisling, James, Maria, Jane, Conor, Olivia and Matthew and son in laws Gary and Barry.

He was a deeply religious man and served as a Eucharistic Minister for many years in both Gilford and here and went to Lourdes as a helper on many occasions. Both Hugh and Kathleen have close links with SMA in Dromanatine and had helped sponsor a priest and continue to assist with the African missions in deed ( Fr. John Denvir is here today to assist in this Mass).

They moved from Gilford to Hall’s Mill some 15 years ago.

Hugh and Kathleen were married in this very church 54 years ago and indeed a vocalist Jim Byrne that day is also singing here today. Hugh was welcomed into the local Campbell family and the entire Campbell family have been particularly supportive in most recent period.

Thank those who have travelled distances today to be here especially the Donegal contingent, perhaps getting ready for their trip to Croke Park! As you know we County Down folk are regular visitors and legends there. Good luck.

The family would like to thank the magnificent care that Hugh received from everyone in his latter days they will never forget it.

Every human story is the story of a journey, the journey of life. Christ is with us on this journey, even though at times we do not recognise him. He is so close to us that our stories merge with his. He shares with us his victory over sin and death.

When all is said and done it is only Christ’s story that makes sense of ours – glory achieved through suffering and death. The resurrection of Christ opens all our stories to the prospect, not of a good ending but of a glorious ending. The last word in each of our stories belongs to God.

Now we have to let Hugh go. His life gave glory to God. And now he has stretched out his tired old hands for the last time and God has taken him to himself. Let us pray with hope and gratitude for the eternal rest of this valiant gentleman and join again in prayer: “My soul give thanks to the Lord and never forget all his blessings”.

Let us celebrate his homecoming, with thanks to God for his long life, for the example his faith gives us; for the lessons that we learned from him about living well and dying well. A Tiarna, dean Trocaire. Eternal rest.....





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