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A grave job but Tony's happy to do it 12.02.08

WHEN you've been an undertaker for more than 55 years, you would be forgiven for getting a bit morbid.
Not so 75-year old Tony McLaughlin from Buncrana who's adamant it's not a dark and depressing job at all.
"It's a job you have to do and if you have faith in it and say to yourself, well, I'm helping some family at a hard time in their life, it's not a bit depressing. If you have confidence in what you're doing it's grand."
Tony ‘Wanish' as he's better known in Buncrana started out in 1952 as an assistant to Hughie Kearney in Cockhill after returning from a stint in England. Kearney, after whom Kearney's Pass is named, was also a refuse collector and alternated between the two services.
Tony 'Wanish' McLaughlin who has been an undertaker in Buncrana for more than 50 years. "You could be burying someone in the morning and collecting refuse in the afternoon - that's the way it was, but you were lucky if they didn't fall on the same day.”
He "felt very shy" for his very first funeral and while he never kept count of how many people he's buried over the years, "it's quite a few".
It fell to Tony to bury his boss when Hughie Kearney died in 1971 and he stayed on to help his wife Mary. Mary eventually died and the business passed on to her sister Rosie. When Rosie decided to sell up in 1975, Tony bought the business for the princely sum of £600.
He was also driving a minibus part-time for Raymond McLaughlin who later joined him as a partner. The company became and still is McLaughlin & McLaughlin Funeral Directors.
He says the undertaking business has greatly changed over the years.
"In the early days there was very little embalming. It's only this last while that the embalming became compulsory with so much cancer and sudden death and other illnesses."
Despite more than a half-century in the business “burying children and young people is still the hardest." Sadly, the father-of-eleven and his wife Agnes have buried two of their own children and a grandchild - son Kevin who was just 2½ , daughter Eileen who was only 23 and 12-year old grandson Shaun who was killed in the Omagh bomb. He reflects for a moment on their three faces side-by-side in a framed picture on the wall of his Cockhill Park home. He says dealing with death nearly every day didn't equip him any better to cope when it came to his own door.
"You feel it bad but at the same time you must let go. There's nothing you can do about it." As for his grandson's death in the 1998 atrocity, he says: "When nobody has been brought to justice it still makes it hard. If you knew somebody was taken up for it and not out there enjoying themselves anymore you could say 'well, at least they’re caught now and that's it'." He's also angry at the "mess" relating to the recent trial of Sean Hoey.
Meanwhile, he says death affects everyone the same.
"Death is the same in every place. I never saw a rich house that coped with it any better than a poor house.”
While he has no immediate plans to retire, he says he has no special plans for his own funeral. "I hope it's a good while yet but nobody knows when their time is up.” And he thanked the bereaved of Buncrana for their co-operation in difficult times.
“All I would say is that I hope I carried out the work for them to their satisfaction and God rest the dead."
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