‘He was my little lad, my buddy, my chief’: Father of Matthew Healy (6) pays emotional tribute to son

James Healy urged parents to cherish their children as he delivered a powerful and wide-ranging eulogy

Matthew Healy’s “heartbroken” father has encouraged parents to cherish their children and expressed regret about not being able to save his “wonderful little lad” who was killed last Friday.

Locals lined the footpaths of Main Street, Watergrasshill, Co Cork on Wednesday to pay their respects to the boy (6) as his father James Healy (38) and uncles Dan, Bill and John carried the six-year-old’s coffin to his funeral Mass.

Mr Healy was flanked by his brothers, sister Marita and father Tony during the service, which was celebrated by parish priest Fr Christy Fitzgerald and Fr Liam Power from Waterford, where Matthew lived with his mother, Ruth Purcell Healy, after his parents separated.

Ms Purcell Healy (37), of Bishopsfield, Williamstown, was on Tuesday night charged with murdering Matthew at Rathmoylan Cove near Dunmore East between February 8th and February 9th last.

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Mr Healy delivered an emotional tribute during the Mass to his only son, who he described as “a beautiful child in every way”.

“He had striking blue eyes, blonde curly hair, a gorgeous smile and a most infectious laugh. He was pure joy. I couldn’t count the number of times I was stopped on the street by complete strangers commenting on how beautiful he was.”

Mr Healy said Matthew was an affectionate child but was also “full of devilment and a bit of craic right from the word go”.

“In his so very short six years and nearly nine months on this earth, Matthew made an immense impact on a lot of ye. He was a very confident and articulate little man who made friends everywhere he went. If he didn’t know anyone when he got there, they’d all know him by the time he was leaving, just like his grandad, Tony.”

He said he and his son were “like two peas in a pod” and they always “made the best use” of their time together.

“He was my little lad, my buddy and my chief. My sister often referred to us as ‘The Dream Team’. At the weekends we did everything together, whether it was at home, building things out of Lego or playing Donkey Kong... or on the go – cycling, swimming or exploring the mountains at home at Curraghcahill and, of course, having fun with his cousins whom he loved so, so much.”

He said Matthew loved music and they had bought drum kits with a view to learning how to play them together. “Buddy, I’ll never forget the concerts and festivals we went to and some of the most precious memories are of our Friday night discos in the sittingroom. You will be forever remembered through our music.”

He said his son had “touched the lives of many” and was loved dearly by his family and friends.

“His tragic passing has had a devastating impact on all who knew him and who loved him. It is an incomprehensible loss to his little school pals, friends and cousins who should not know such grief so young. We are all utterly heartbroken but so privileged to have known and loved such a wonderful little lad.”

Mr Healy added: “Matthew’s death is an unimaginable tragedy, and our hearts will be forever broken. However, we need not to remember this, we will remember him for who he was and the joy he brought into our lives, and we will continue to celebrate his life into the future.”

“To all of you here today, I implore you all to cherish and enjoy your kids – do the things that are stone mad all in the name of fun, you will fondly remember it just as I do now.

“Finally, Matthew, it has been the greatest honour in my life and an absolute pleasure to be your dad and I am so sorry I couldn’t save you, chief. I love you.”

Earlier, Fr Fitzgerald, co-parish priest in Watergrasshill where Mr Healy has lived for close to a decade, welcomed mourners to the church, saying “we are where no one wants to be today”.

“Though springtime beckons, and the daffodils are above ground, Matthew’s death leaves us all encircled by pain, sadness and overwhelming grief... We do what we do best at this time, come together to offer support, share our condolences and prayers,” the priest said.

Fr Fitzgerald extended his sympathy to Matthew’s parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and extended family.

“We are very mindful of Matthew’s classmates from senior infants in Faithlegg National School, his team-mates in Park Rangers under 7′s. We journey with you all in faith, in hope and love, and assure you of our prayers.”

Mementoes of Matthew including some of his Lego creations, his arts and crafts and a jar of jellies were brought as offertory gifts.

His uncle Dan recalled Matthew’s great love of baking and how he made sure that his uncles and aunts sampled everything he made. This extended to “some quare concoctions” such as “a luminous pumpkin orange cake” and “a radioactive green cake”.

“There was no hesitation on his part – everything had to be sampled but we all survived to tell the tale,” his uncle added.

Following the Mass, Matthew’s family accompanied his remains on his final journey to The Island Crematorium at Rocky Island in Ringaskiddy, where a private cremation service took place.

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Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times