Chapter 29

in which Father Smith celebrates the funeral Mass for Monsignor O'Duffy.

When he arrived at the pro-Cathedral for Monsignor O'Duffy's funeral, the Bishop was driven in his car by his master of ceremonies who had to do a quick change afterwards; but the Bishop himself had no quick changing to do, because he came in his purple silk and his lace through the streets quite openly, and even Protestants took off their hats to him as he passed because he was too old for anybody to hate any longer and even the Congregationalist official had made no difficulty about giving him extra coupons for his petrol.

There was such a cram in the church that the procession had almost to fight its way to the high altar: the Franciscans were there, the Jesuits were there, the Dominicans were there, the Benedictines were there, the Helpers of the Holy Souls were there, the nuns from the convent were there, the Lord Provost and members of the Town Council were there, the management and team of the Shamrock Football Club were there, the Episcopal Dean and the ministers of all the Protestant churches were there, the Salvation Army was there, the Saint Patrick Co-operative Society was there, the Plumbers' and Gasfitters' Trade Union was there, the chorus girls from the revue at the Duke of York's Theatre were there, the chartered accountants were there, the lawyers were there, the bank managers were there, the Town Territorials were there, the university professors were there, the tram-drivers, the stokers, the chimney sweeps, the school-children, the babies he had baptized and the harlots he had rebuked in the street were there, all surging in a steaming soup because a great and a good and a humble and a simple man had been called away by Almighty God.

Canon Smith sang the Mass of requiem, because he had been the monsignore's oldest friend, and Canon Bonnyboat was deacon and Canon Muldoon was sub-deacon. As he stood at the right-hand side of the altar to sing the collect, the sob in his heart was so great that it burst right through into his voice; but even as he faltered, the echo of tones that had been used to him at that very altar came back to him: 'Sing oot louder, Tam; the auld wives at the back'll no be able tae hear ye'; so he mastered his gulp and sang out with all his might that God's holy angels might take Patrick Ignatius O'Duffy and lead him to the home of paradise.

When the service was over, the coffin was carried from the church on the shoulders of the Shamrock Football Team, whom the monsignore had used to encourage from the grand­stand with both fingers in his mouth. Right through the crowd on the steps the shining coffin was passed and was laid in the hearse, which was to be driven by James Finnegan who had once knocked Battling Sambo out of the ring in the presence of King Edward VII. Immediately behind the hearse the pipe band of the Territorials formed up, with the drum major enormous in his kilt and a smasher of a moustache that looked like two Persian cats' tails. Then came the members of the Town Council in their cocked hats and robes preceded by their mace-bearer. Then came the Principal and Senate of the University in their gowns and robes, only their files weren't quite even as the Reader in Icelandic Philology got mixed up with Miss Zizi Ashton, leading lady in the Gay Girls revue, whose place in the procession came immediately afterwards. Then came the chartered accountants, the lawyers and the stockbrokers, sorry dogs most them, and the bank managers with mincing mien. Then came the plumbers and the gasfitters and the stokers and the tram-drivers, humble and knobby men who tinkered at dull tasks to the greater glory of God. Then came the clergy of other denominations in their ordinary clothes without their robes, because it was as individuals to an individual they were paying their last respects. Then came the nuns stretching like great black-and-white birds on the cover of a book by Anatole France. In front of the coffin went the priests in their cottas and cassocks, the canons in their fur and their purple, the friars in their brown and their black and their white, the monks in their cowls, the acolytes trying to keep their candles lighted in the wind, and last of all the Bishop and his assistants in their stiff black-and-gold. And behind all came the great surge of God's great humble holy unwashed, weeping and snivelling and snottering in their shawls because they would never again hear the voice of Patrick Ignatius O'Duffy telling them that they would burn like faggots if they didn't come to Mass on Sundays.

Through the advertisements for Pepsodent and Guinness and Players and Mine's A Minor the procession passed, but it wasn't only through them, because the streets were so blocked with other mourners that all the tramways had had to be stopped. For the most part it was the poor who had come out to see Monsignor O'Duffy go by for the last time, but some of the eleven-o'clock coffee-drinking women were there as well, caught in the crowd between changing their library books and buying liver salts, popping their silly little eyes at a popularity they were too imbecile to understand. But the poor understood all right and the ragged children sat on their parents' shoulders and those who were big enough clambered up the lamp-posts. If the monsignore had been alive, they would have cheered, but as he was dead they wept instead, and those who weren't weeping had a great distress on their faces because they knew that a great clumsy slice of man who had known all about God's mercy would walk among them no more. And nobody thought at all about it being illegal in Scotland for priests to process in public in their vestments, and so the poetry of Christ's Church went by, casting a fleeting reflection of meaning upon the sprawl of the city.

Past Signor Sarno's cinema house bawling out about Hedy Lamarr, past the Episcopal Cathedral where God wore a blazer, past the steps of the Carlton-Elite with the angels of men ascending and descending, past the theosophical library with its spread of Mrs. Annie Besant, past the new subterranean lavatory for gentlemen, past the bowling green where the monsignore had shown his multi-coloured shirt-sleeves on summer Wednesday evenings, past the windows of the Conservative club packed with faces that ruled the world, past the Duke of York's Theatre, past the Port Said Dancing Club where the hostesses in their vapours flung fish and chips at one another, past the new red-brick Congregational Church, on, on, on, out into the grand green splash of the country.

When at length they reached the cemetery, the acolytes all had to light their candles again as the flame had long since gone out. The Bishop blessed the grave with incense and with holy water and prayed that the soul of Patrick Ignatius O'Duffy might be joined to the angelic choir; and with the cold trees all about them the clergy and the laity all blubbered like bairns because a holy, humble, yelling, blundering, delicate priest had been gathered by God.


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