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In memory of Danny Toland

Danny Toland

Danny Toland

1926 - 2020

Celebrant: Fr. Colum Wright

St. Colman's Clare.

I’ll just begin with a wee story…

A group of blind men heard that a strange animal, called an elephant, had been brought into the town - none of them were aware of its shape and form. Out of curiosity, they said: "We will inspect it, and we will know exactly what is like by touch alone". So, they sought the animal out, and when they found it, they placed their hands upon it.

In the case of the first person, whose hand landed on the trunk…. he said: "This is like a thick snake".

The second man whose hand touched its ear said: it seems to be like a kind of fan.

The third person, whose hand was upon its leg, said: No, the elephant is like a pillar, as strong as a tree-trunk.

The blind man who placed his hand upon its side said the elephant, "No, is a wall".

Another who felt its tail, described it as a rope.

The last man felt its tusk, and he stated the elephant was like a spear.

The story goes that someone came finally along, and as he listened to the blind men arguing, he said to them: “you’re all partially right, but you’re also partially wrong. You only know a very little piece about this elephant!”

In many ways the story of the blind men and the elephant is a bit like our understanding of God, we each know and understand a little bit about Him, but certainly not everything – even though sometimes we think that we do.   Some of us love Him, some of us can’t understand His plans, some of us have fallen out with Him, some don’t believe that He exists, and some of us are very confused about Him………. and perhaps because we all have different understandings and experiences with God………… and we only really know a small piece about Him.

It’s my belief (and we’re told it in scripture) that when we die, we shall see God face to face – we shall see Him exactly as He is – the scales will fall from our eyes, and we will no longer have only small and individual pieces of knowledge about God!

When Saint Peter met Danny with his big book (which in humour Irish people often talk about) and he opened it up…………….. I imagine that he said ‘Danny Toland’……….. now let me see!! If I have the right man here, you were born in the Bleary in 1926, on the Sugar Island Road. You are definitely a County Down man, although in Funeral times on the internet, because you lived recently in Oakleagh Fold, so you are formally resisted in County Armagh. I imagine at that stage Danny would say……….. ‘I’m sorry Saint Peter, but can I point out very clearly that I really have no connection at all with that County!’

Going on Saint Peter would list that Danny went to Lylo School, and then went on to work in the building trade at the young age of 14 both as a labourer and as a hudsman. I think he also worked for a while at the mill in Gilford. He met Anna (his great love) at the nieces wedding……….. Anne, who married Anna’s brother Mickey.

The other great love and great passion for Danny was his pigeons. His great victory was winning the Queens Silver Jubilee Pigeon race. His pigeon shed was like a palace where there was much, much laughter and comradery, and where over a long time he entertained many of his friends. At that stage I imagine that Saint Peter will ask him: ‘Tell me honestly Danny (and now you can’t tell fibs here at the pearly gates) – did you really go out to your shed for your love of pigeons, or was it really so that you could to get a break away from Anna??’ (only Saint Peter and Danny will know how he answered that one!!)

As well as the sadness of his mother and his many siblings dying, there was also great tragedy for Danny; when during the early troubles his father Joe was murdered along with others who were greatly injured and who also died.

A man with a great smile, a man who loved children, a great man for ecumenism and love of ALL his neighbours, and a great singer, a singer of many songs (although I’m reliably informed that he never, ever went as far as rendering the boys from the County Armagh!!)

A simple man who certainly didn’t crave luxuries’ or limelight, a gentleman who like his family who all went before him; he was a man who had great faith in God!!! The Lord came for him, as we’re told so often in scripture, ‘like a thief in the night’………………… although so many of us foolishly think that that will never happen to us (but it will)!! So today is a good day for us, if we haven’t already done so, to make OUR peace with God!!!

The last part of Danny’s life was anything but easy (his form of sickness is very often called ‘the long goodbye’). During this last two years when things got steadily worse for him, and for Anna, and for all who helped care for him. I’m delighted that only a few weeks ago I got the chance to bless him, and to bless his new home in Oakleigh!!

As a great gardener I’ll just finish of our goodbyes here by reading the words of a most beautiful hymn…….

‘I come to the garden alone,
While the dew is still on the roses;
And the voice I hear, falling on my ear,
the Son of God discloses.

And He walks with me,
and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own.
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

He speaks, and the sound of His voice,
Is so sweet that even the birds hush their singing;
And the melody that He gave to me
Within my heart is ringing.
And He walks with me, and He talks to me,
And He tells me I am His own,
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

May Danny tend eternally now in the gardens of heaven.

To Anna and Frankie, can I just say on behalf everyone here, and of the clergy in both of our parishes how sorry that we all are! Whatever our humble prayers are worth, be assured of them!!

Eternal rest grant unto his soul O Lord….    






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