THERE was a huge turnout at St John’s Cathedral on Monday afternoon as mourners paid their final respects to the late Philip McCormack.
Philip, aged 40, of Glenside, Annacotty, and originally from Garryowen, died last Thursday from injuries he had sustained when knocked from his bicycle by a car at Kilmurry Roundabout on Wednesday afternoon.
The tragic misfortune of his death however, was not allowed to overshadow the celebration of a life well lived - that of a doting father, devoted son and big-hearted, talented man. The moving tributes paid to him from the altar revealed a selfless and generous soul whose popularity was well earned.
Known to many as the Honda 50 Man, Philip’s talents in expertly restoring the iconic motorbikes reached a national audience through the 11850 TV ads that featured two of his projects.
This was but one of the fond memories of Philip shared from the altar by Fr Leo McDonnell who, with concelebrant Fr Derek Leonard, led the mourning.
There were moving contributions also from his sister Jennifer and nephew Brian after the mass, that illustrated the positive impact that Philip had on so many lives.
One such example, furnished by his nephew from the altar, showed Philip’s caring and modest character at its best: “Not many people know this,” said Brian, “but last year Philip talked a man down from a bridge and stayed with him until the gardai arrived. He saved a life that night and he’ll save six more now, because he has donated his organs in the hospital.”
Philip’s sister Jennifer admitted it was difficult to put into words just how much he meant to his family.
“He was a fantastic father to Katie and a great son, he was always there for our parents. As for the rest of us, how are we going to fill this gap in our lives? Nobody knows.
“He was always generous with his time and I am sure that as the years go by, we will all be hearing stories from people of how Philip touched their lives.
“He was a hard worker who went to London as a boy and came back a man, ready to take on the world, and take it on he did.”
He accomplished much in his life, she told the congregation, including campaigning to get Ceol na Sraid in the city so named, in honour of the memory of the St John’s Brass Band.
Other family members played their parts too in seeing Philip off. His brother Martin played a haunting version of Eric Clapton’s Tears In Heaven, his father Jim played clarinet while nephew Ian Henry played one of his own compositions in tribute to Philip.
Fr McDonnell told how 11850 had commissioned Philip to source two Honda 50s for their TV ads, how he had lovingly restored the bikes, “every nut and bolt brand new, with reconditioned engines and painted in bright green and white - the Limerick colours”.
“They wouldn’t have been any other colours, certainly not the Cork ones! Philip was a proud Limerick man.”
Actors Paul Reid and Feidlim Cannon who played the parts of ‘Nifty’ and ‘Fifty’ in the popular adverts were among the crowd of mourners paying their respects.
Fr McDonnell said Philip was a man of great status and great talent. He could turn his hand to anything. He was a great lover of animals also, but the greatest love of all he reserved for his seven-year-old daughter Katie, “the apple of her father’s eye”.
“There is one soul here who will be more sorry than all of us - his daughter Katie,” said Fr McDonnell, adding, “we hope she can hold on to her precious loving memories of her father as she grows up.”
Reflecting on the sudden nature of Philip’s passing, Fr McDonnell said it has become all too familiar to pick up a paper or turn on a radio and learn of another road death, but not until the knock comes to the door, or the phone rings to say it is someone close, does our world come tumbling down, as the McCormacks’ world had last week.
“Jesus now wants to walk by your side to comfort and console you. God is close to the broken heart,” said Fr McDonnell expressing his hope that the funeral mass would help the family’s healing process begin.
Philip was known for his bikes but he used all modes of transport, said Fr McDonnell, and now was on his final journey which would end at the side of the Lord.
Philip McCormack was buried in Mount Saint Oliver cemetery in the city. May he rest in peace.