President leads huge turnout for funeral of Frank Prendergast

Mike Dwane

Reporter:

Mike Dwane

The remains of the late Frank Prendergast, draped in the light blue of his beloved Garryowen RFC, are carried from St John's Cathedral. Picture: Michael Cowhey
“A LIBRARY closed on Thursday night when your dad passed” was how one of the mourners put it to Conor, son of the late Frank Prendergast, at the removal of the former TD and Mayor of Limerick on Sunday night.

“A LIBRARY closed on Thursday night when your dad passed” was how one of the mourners put it to Conor, son of the late Frank Prendergast, at the removal of the former TD and Mayor of Limerick on Sunday night.

The thousands of people who had braved the wind and rain had taken five hours to file through Thompsons’ funeral home and hundreds more packed out St John’s Cathedral on Monday for the funeral of one of Limerick’s most loved sons.

Mr Prendergast said the comparison of his father to a library was apt, given his love of learning, “his encyclopaedic brain and his incredible ability to remember facts”.

As a politician, trade unionist, historian, gaeilgeoir, sportsman and more besides Frank Prendergast’s expertise had been relied upon by the boards of dozens of state bodies, local and regional government organisations, sports clubs, educational institutions, community groups.

But one that had really meant a lot of him, Conor Prendergast told mourners, was his involvement in his later years with Gaelcholaiste Luimni, where he was chairman of the board.

“One of the greatest accolades he could have had was to have their memorial library named after him. He was deeply, deeply moved by that, to have a library named after him of all things. Books, Irish, education. That meant so much to him.”

All the more so because when Frank Prendergast’s mother had died when he was 13, the eldest of seven children had to leave school to go to work to help support them. He had often wondered how his life would have turned out had he got a Leaving Cert.

“But it gave him a lifelong interest and love in learning. He never stopped learning until he breathed his last breath last Thursday,” said Conor.

Chief celebrant at the funeral, Fr Todd Morrissey said the breadth of Frank Prendergast’s learning were reflected in his Dail speeches, which were peppered with quotes from Marx and Lenin and popes.

“He used to tell a story with some amusement that after his maiden speech, Charlie Haughey came up to congratulate him. Though he pretended to be amused, he was also chuffed at the fact,” said Fr Morrissey.

Another lifelong friend, President Michael D Higgins, was among the mourners to pay their last respects on Monday.

For more see this weekend’s Limerick Leader