GLASLOUGH’S SIR JACK MAKES HIS LAST JOURNEY IN STATELY GRACE

22 April 2016 No Comments by The Northern Standard

PETER HUGHES

In the manner in which he so often traversed the grounds of the Castle Leslie estate and the streets of the nearby village, in the manner in which he lived out his almost-century of years, Captain Sir John Leslie took his final journey yesterday afternoon with an air of stately and unhurried grace.

A glass carriage drawn by two immaculately manicured black horses was the mode of conveyance that brought the coffin of the 4th Baronet of Glaslough and Pettigo, who died on Monday last, from the grounds of the family demesne through the silent village of Glaslough, followed by another horse-drawn carriage of antique design carrying the chief mourners.

On their sedate passage from the Leslie home to St Mary’s Church in nearby Glennan, the slow clops of the horses drummed a sombre tattoo over an intervening rural landscape looking, befittingly, at its most beguiling in the day’s sudden bloom of late Spring.

“A gracious man known and loved by the community,” was how Fr Hubert Martin described Sir Jack, who had worshipped on a weekly basis in the tranquil country church, as his coffin was borne to its place before the altar and draped in the flag of the Order of Malta with solemn ceremony, recognising the Baronet’s status as the Order’s longest serving member and holder of the prestigious title of Knight of the Equestrian Order for St Gregory.

Chancellor of the Order Michael Barry led a delegation of Knights, and Fr Martin was joined in the liturgy by a former parish priest of Donagh, Canon Paddy Marron, with Reverend Betty Thompson of the St Salvator Church of Ireland community also present.

In prominent position in the church were distinctive signifiers of some of the many facets of Sir Jack’s rich and colourful life – the beret with peacock feather that often provided the finishing touch to his sartorial elegance; a copy of his volume of memoirs, Never A Dull Moment; an array of his military medals and other distinctions, and, not to be forgotten, a disc of his beloved “boom boom” dance music.

The French Ambassador to Ireland His Excellency Jean-Pierre Thébault was among the attendance that filled the church to overflow, with many representatives from other Irish “great house” families joining with the people of Glaslough and the wider North Monaghan area to convey their last respects. Before taking their seats many mourners paused to record their names in a book of condolence and append their own personal adieux, some elaborate, others as simple and heartfelt as the message, “Farewell Jack!” inscribed in a bold handwriting flourish.

Conveying sympathy to nephews, nieces and other close relatives at the outset of what was described in a circulated booklet as a “Celebration Mass for the life of Captain Sir John Norman Ide Leslie”, Fr Martin remarked on the various titles that Sir Jack could lay claim to, and which “he wore so lightly and never stood on ceremony”.

Fr Martin pointed out that around 1962 Sir Jack’s father Sir Shane Leslie had handed over the deeds of Lough Derg to the Clogher Diocese and the then Bishop Eugene O’Callaghan. All the work that had been done at the pilgrimage island in the subsequent 30-40 years would not have been possible without this gesture, Fr Martin pointed out, adding that this was one of the reasons for the very close bond between the Leslie family and the diocese.

BISHOP’S MESSAGE

Fr Martin then read the following message from Catholic Bishop of Clogher Liam MacDaid: “I wish to join the local Catholic community in offering our sympathy and respect to the Leslie family on the death of Sir Jack. He will be remembered for his unfailing courtesy, his sense of fun and unique style which brought much colour to local life.

“He will be missed from his customary pew in St Mary’s at Saturday night’s Vigil Mass. May the Lord welcome his noble soul to the fullness of life in God’s Kingdom. May he rest in peace.”

Fr Martin referred to discussions he had held with members of the Leslie family over preceding days in which they had reflected on Sir Jack’s joy of life, and joy in love and family. Family members tried to put appropriate words on what they called his indestructible and positive attitude to life, how he only saw the good in people and never spoke ill of anyone.

A gift of his was his attention to detail, which made him a very good student, and the same was true of his friendships and relationships – he remembered details about people which others might not have noticed. “His attention to detail also made him a strong Christian,” Fr Martin stated, adding that: “For him, the Sacrament of Communion was no empty ritual, it was a personal meeting with Jesus Christ. What he had learned from his catechism he had personalised in a truly profound manner.”

The priest described Sir Jack as an intelligent man who made the most of the opportunities afforded him in life. He loved history, whether ancient, medieval or modern, and had a deep appreciation of classical civilisation, art and music.

“While he could be very formal, he had a lovely sense of humour – that he became such a phenomenon on the night-club scene bears testimony to his sense of fun and playfulness.”

Reflecting on Sir Jack’s distinguished war record, and the time he spent in Rome from 1954 until his return to Glaslough in 1994, Fr Martin said that it was while he was in the Italian capital that his passion for art and antiquity blossomed. But he made regular visits home in June of each year, and was of immense help to the Parish of Donagh in procuring the stone for works which were taking place to St Patrick’s Church in Corracrin in the 1980s.

Referring to his induction into the Equestrian Order for St Gregory in the Knights of Malta, Fr Martin said this was an award of merit for Sir Jack’s “dedication to the ideals of the Christian Gospel”.

ORDER OF MALTA CHANCELLOR

Before reading the daily prayer which Sr Jack would have invoked as a member of the Knights of Malta, the Order’s Chancellor Michael Barry told the congregation that Sir Jack, who had been invested in 1948, was the oldest and longest serving Knight of Malta in Ireland, “and we can only say that he is a true hero.”

“As an officer in the Irish Guards he went out to fight against the forces of evil and the forces of Nazism. He did not hesitate. He suffered in his imprisonment and endured through his faith in Almighty God. When he came back to Ireland after the war he was inducted as a Knight of Malta, of which he was immensely proud.

“He was a very much honoured and decorated man, but in all of this he was a faithful servant of God. He served as a soldier, and than as a Knight of Christ.”

The Chancellor was joined by the other members of the Order present for the ceremonial removal of the Order’s flag prior to the coffin being brought from the church, its departure being marked by a spontaneous round of applause from the congregation.

Prior to that, the final words fell to Sir Jack’s niece Sammy to say. They came in the form of a lullaby featured in a baby book which the family and Sir Jack had been perusing in his final days….

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