Bell family honoured in Perth for service to families of Irish killed abroad

May 9, 2016

Irish welfare organisations from around Australia came together last week to honour Newry couple Colin and Eithne Bell for the work their repatriation charity has done to assist the families of Irish people killed while travelling or working there.

The Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust (KBRT) was set up by the Bell family  in June 2013, following the death of their son Kevin in a hit and run accident in New York. In the aftermath of his death, his friends and supporters in Newry and abroad rallied round to raise funds to repatriate his body.  Within days the fund grew to £150,000 and when Kevin’s American employers agreed to cover the cost of transporting his body home, the Bells decided to use the money raised to help other families who were visited with the same tragedy.   In just under three years, the KBRT has helped to bring home 170 people who have died overseas, The majority of these tragic deaths have happened in Australia.

In addition to alleviating the financial hardship of repatriation for other bereaved Irish families, Colin and Eithne, along with their six sons and daughters, help to provide emotional and practical support and advice to families, taking on the often painstaking administrative and logistical process and liaising with Irish welfare organisations around the world. The work is done entirely on a voluntary basis from the kitchen table of their Newry home, without any type of government funding.

Last week, the inspirational couple were presented with a bronze sculpture of a wild goose in flight in recognition of their amazing work.   The sculpture, called Flying Home, was created by Smith Sculptors, Charles Smith and Joan Walsh-Smith, an Irish couple who emigrated to Australia in 1984.  The flight theme is in keeping with the symbol of a goldfinch on the KBRT crest –  a poignant reminder of Kevin, who had bought his mum a bird table for Christmas one year and because he was the “only redhead in the family.”

“I see Kevin there with the birds,” said his proud mum Eithne, “Birds always come home to nest, and that’s why we have the trust.”

Presenting the beautiful sculpture to the couple during a LINK conference held in Perth last week, Joan Ross, president of the Claddagh Association in Perth, described the Bell family’s service to the Irish abroad, and their families at home in Ireland, as “truly remarkable”.

Colin Bell thanked the Irish organisations gathered at the conference from Perth,Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide, who also provide assistance to the families and friends of people killed in Australia, and said the KBRT was “getting amazing support throughout Ireland, and around the world”.

“I have travelled the length and breadth of Ireland to collect cheques, because people have taken this cause to their hearts,” he added.