Community mourns passing of “remarkable” Reavey mother

August 5, 2013

by Christine Keighery

Hundreds of mourners packed into St Brigid’s Church, Carrickananny last Thursday to pay their last respects to Whitecross woman Sadie Reavey, who died peacefully last Monday at Daisy Hill hospital surrounded by her family. The 89 year old mother of 12 children, suffered the loss of 3 of her sons when they were murdered by the UVF 37 years ago.

The Reavey brothers, John Martin (24), Brian (22) and Anthony (17) were brutally gunned down by loyalists who had burst into their home on January 4, 1976. They had been watching TV when they were shot by the notorious Glenanne Gang, which included members of the UVF, UDR and RUC.  John Martin and Brian died instantly while Anthony succumbed to his injuries on January 30th.

A Historical Enquiries Team report discovered that the murders had never been fully investigated and completely exonerated the brothers and the entire Reavey family of any paramilitary involvement.  The family continues to campaign for the state to admit to the failings and actions of the police force in the murders of the Reavey brothers.

The passing of Mrs Reavey prompted heartfelt condolences throughout last week, with local political representatives expressing their sympathy for the Reavey family and paying tribute to their mother.

SDLP Assembly Member for Newry and Armagh, Dominic Bradley described Mrs Reavey as a “remarkable lady” who “held no bitterness in her heart” despite what she and her family suffered.  Having met her many times, Mr Bradley said she made “a lasting impression” and was “a true lady who will be very sadly missed by all who knew and loved her.”

Speaking after the funeral, Sinn Fein MLA Mickey Brady said the huge attendance at the funeral and all throughout Mrs Reavey’s wake demonstrated the respect which the community has for her and the Reavey family.

SDLP Councillor Sharon Haughey-Grimley, who attended the funeral along with Former Deputy First Minister Seamus Mallon and Councillor John Feehan, expressed her sadness at the passing of “a woman of true peace” who was “an example to all of us.”

“She carried her heavy cross with great dignity and respect and now in her late years I pray that she will be reunited with her three sons in heaven,” said the former Armagh Mayor.

Sadie and her late husband Jimmy were indeed held in high regard for the dignity with which they bore the loss of their sons, and during Requiem Mass, that dignity and forgiveness were commended once more.

Family friend, Fr. Kevin Cullen, who celebrated the funeral Mass, described the couple as “shining lights” in desperate times, with such a “profound respect for life” that they pleaded for no retaliation for the murder of their sons.  He said he often wondered how they lived on through it and spoke also of Sadie’s devout faith and her reputation for reciting poetry.

The congregation heard how, despite further heartache with the premature death of her husband in 1981 and the untimely passing of her 31 year old daughter Una, who lost her cancer battle in 1994, Mrs Reavey continued to bear her “enormous cross” with a quiet fortitude and selflessness that amazed all who knew and loved her.

Some of Sadie’s 28 grandchildren recited the Prayers of the Faithful during Mass while several of her 33 great grandchildren took part in the offertory procession carrying items which were close to their Great Grandmother’s heart, including a book of poems, rosary beads, a family photo, an apron and an Irish dancing costume.

Granddaughter, Sarah Reavey, paid a heartfelt tribute to her grandmother, who, she said, bore her grief with “great dignity.” She revealed that the bereaved mother had prayed for her sons’ murderers and always made the welfare of others a priority. She spoke of how her “granny” touched the lives of total strangers, recalling a particular incident where a woman who had never met her, threw her arms around Mrs Reavey and declared her “a wee saint.”

“And for me that sums her up – granny Reavey the wee saint – not just the Reavey’s granny, but everyone’s granny,” said Sarah.

Sadie’s son Paul drew applause from mourners following his rendition of one of his mother’s favourite poems.

Movingly, Mrs Reavey’s remains were carried from the church to the music of a song written by her sister, Ann O’Dowd in 1976, about her three murdered sons.

She was later laid to rest at St. Malachy’s Cemetery, Ballymoyer.