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Emmet Bergin was ‘a remarkable man’ and ‘an inspiration’, funeral told

Glenroe cast members gather with family and friends to mark passing of Irish actor with music, poetry and stories

Emmet Bergin’s voice, clear and strong, mellow and expressive, reading Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poem How Do I Love Thee, filled the Victorian Chapel at Mount Jerome during a memorial on Tuesday recalling his rich life.

“If God choose, I shall but love thee better after death,” those mourning his death heard.

The actor known to most of Ireland as Dick Moran, a charming rake in RTÉ'S Glenroe from 1983 to 2001, died suddenly but peacefully at his Dublin home on March 15th.

At the start of the memorial, his grandson Jack laid a brown felt hat on his grandfather’s coffin. Humanist celebrant Brian Whiteside remarked that Bergin was known for his hats, with several around their family home, along with a fishing rod in the corner, a reminder of another great passion of his.

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Bergin’s wife Sarah, son Gavan and daughter Tara and grandson Jack, led the mourners, along with his siblings, including actor Patrick Bergin, and son-in-law Alan Turnbull.

A large number of fellow cast members of Glenroe bid farewell to a friend and colleague of many years, including Geraldine Plunkett, who played his wife Mary in Glenroe, Enda Oates, John Olohan, David Herlihy, Philip Judge, Isobel Mahon, Joe McKinney, Liam Carney, Susie Slott, Lucy Vigne Welsh, Rachel Pilkington.

Gavan Bergin said his father was “a hero to me when he was a boy, and my best pal when I was a man”.

Tara Bergin said he was “a remarkable man, totally unconventional, complex, real. He was fiercely intelligent and serious-minded with a deep understanding and love of the natural world. But he was also a messer, a fighter, an arguer, resistant to authority, resistant to being pinned down.”

The celebrant read a brief memory from Emmet Bergin’s wife, Sarah, of a birthday gift from him that she’d requested, a new hardback dictionary. Inside he had written: “There aren’t enough words to tell you how much I Iove you”.

She added: “My heart will always be with his heart.”

Messages from his siblingsrecalled particular memories. Siobhán wrote he was a lifesaver, having saved her from the river Barrow many moons ago. “A hero, my brother Emmet.”

Patrick wrote: “My abiding memory of Emmet was him looking like a teddy boy, a cross between James Dean and Elvis Presley. Leather jacket and jeans, slicked back hair, dancing around the lamp-post with my sister Siobhán in her polka dot dress, behind Earlsfort Terrace. He was an inspiration.”

Pearse recalled him “teaching me where to cast the line to catch the bass that ran behind the third wave, and that you had to put the first one of the year back, for luck. He had the magic.”

Allen remembered being together in the sanatorium, with tuberculosis, and him coming over from the adult ward, bringing him comics,

Alan Turnbull spoke about his father-in-law as “a very cultured individual, authentic, engaged, articulate. But everything was tempered by irony, humour and self-deprecating remarks.”

Bergin’s friend Paul Cullen evoked wonderful days and more wonderful nights on the lake fishing at his beloved Lough Arrow in Co Sligo, where he bought a cottage in a very remote spot. He recalled him one time rowing back to his cottage in the middle of the night, rather than using the motor, because he “didn’t want to break the spell”.

A slide show, accompanied by Luke Kelly’s Raglan Road, included theatre posters, newspaper cuttings (one of them Bergin on the cover of the RTÉ Guide), some of Bergin’s striking photographs of the natural world and of objects, and family photographs.

Other actors at the memorial included Jimmy Bartley, Ingrid Craigie, Barry McGovern, Máire Ní Ghráinne, Jonathan Ryan, Ruth Hegarty, Clive Geraghty, Barbara Brennan. Others included executive director of the Abbey Theatre Mark O’Brien, Kevin Reynolds of RTÉ Drama, and the President Michael D Higgins was represented by his aide-de-camp, Col Stephen Howard.

The music began with Leonard Cohen’s Tower of Song and ended with Odetta’s Tomorrow is a Long Time, and afterwards, Elvis’s Blue Suede Shoes, leaving many of the congregation smiling as they left.

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