Weeks after the tragic cycling accident which claimed the life of Orla Lawlor, a sense of sadness still lingers over the Bennettsbridge community. Family members, neighbours and friends are trying to come to terms with the loss of a loving daughter, sister, partner, niece and friend.
From the moment the news broke the Lawlor home was an open house as people came in hundreds to offer their sympathy to Orla’s parents, Pat and Tricia, anxious to help in any way possible to ease the burden. It was a long week for the family as they waited, while close members travelled to Cambridge to bring Orla’s body home. Those who called to the house could only wonder at the courage of the family and the hospitality shown to everyone. All over the house one could see the family photographs and it was sad to see the pictures of Orla being passed around, from childhood snaps to graduation ones.
Orla’s body was brought home on April 26, when she would have been 27. Neighbours and friends respected the family’s request to spend time with their loved one and only close family came to the house. On Saturday the Lawlor house was once again open to receive the many visitors who came to pay their respects. These included Orla’s school friends, work colleagues, GAA representatives, political figures and people from all over the country. Given the Lawlor family’s strong connections with the GAA, most notable being Pat’s achievements on the hurling field, it was expected that the association would be well represented. And so it proved.
All day, people from every walk of life filed past Orla’s coffin offering their sympathy to the family. During the entire week, the community spirit for which Bennettsbridge has long been renowned came into play and the family was supported in every way.
Throughout the week stories were told and re-told and the underlying message coming across was, the unfairness of it all. Orla was a young woman who had worked hard throughout her life, a high achiever with a brilliant career in front of her. She was above all a great family girl and her love for her family shone through in all her endeavours. Her pride in her young nieces and nephew was well known and it is some consolation to her family that Orla had been home in February when the family gathered for the christening of her young nephew, Hugh.
She received her earlier education in Bennettsbridge N. S. and Loreto Convent, Kilkenny. Orla graduated from Limerick University with an honours law degree and completed her Post Grad in Legal Practice in Nottingham Trent University. She secured an internship in Bishop Stortford London where she spent two years.
Orla also spent two summers working in The Irish College in Rome. She spent some time in Brussels and Strasburg working with M.E.P. Avril Doyle and Avril travelled to Bennettsbridge to pay her respects to her young colleague.
The young graduate had been working in Tee’s Solicitors in Cambridge for three years and was highly thought of by all her colleagues. Adam Copeland of Tees paid tribute to Orla and her commitment to work and her great “way with people”. Prior to her body being removed to Ireland, close family, colleagues and friends gathered for a memorial service at Weyman Funeral Home in Cambridge. There was a large attendance indicating the huge impact that Orla had made on people during her short time there.
Her sporting interests and achievements were many and varied.
She played hockey for Loreto and featured on the Inter Provincial Hockey Team. She was a member of James Stephen’s Junior Camogie Team which won the Kilkenny County Junior Camogie Championship in 2002.
She was a fantastic athlete and a brilliant horsewoman.
Cycling was one of her main interests and she was a member of the Cambridge Cycling Club and the Cambridge Triathlon Club where she pursued her passion for horseriding. The CCC plan to establish an annual bike ride in Orla’s memory.
Sadly, a planned two week cycling holiday in Majorca with her partner Aidan did not come to pass.
Throughout the week prayers in Orla’s home were led by Canon Duggan who was a great support to the family.
On Sunday,the remains were carried from Orla’s home by family members to St Bennett’s Church. Along the route, a guard of honour representative of, Bennettsbridge G.A.A, East End United, Equestrian community, schoolfriends and work colleagues escorted the coffin The church was filled to capacity and the attendance included people who travelled from Europe and all over the country. Many were unable to gain entry and spilled out into the church grounds. Earlier, speakers had been erected outside and people were able to follow the service and hear the beautiful singing of the Loreto Choir.
Requiem Mass was con-celebrated by Very Rev Canon Patrick Duggan, P.P., Tullaherin, and Very Rev James Murphy, P.P. St Canice’s., assisted by Very Rev Canon Tom Murphy, P.P. Ballyragget., Very Rev Patrick Comerford, P.P. Slievrue., Rt. Rev Mgr Michael Ryan, P.P. Castlecomer, Very Rev Dan O’Gorman, Columban Fathers., Rt. Rev Mgr Kieron Kennedy, St Kieran’s College.
Orla’s friend, Owena Kinsella gave a short narrative, as gifts reflecting the varied interests enjoyed by her were brought to the altar. Owena’s last gift to her childhood friend and neighbour was to design the Memorial Mass Booklet for her Requiem Mass.
A riding helmet was carried by Michael Kirwan. Anne Lawlor brought sunglasses. Vera Lawlor brought up a Cambridge Cycling Jersey. Roald Dahl books reflecting Orla’s generosity to her young nieces were carried by Gabrielle Carroll. Sinead Fahy brought up a Family Photograph.
The lessons were read by Breda Scully( Clare) and Colette Dunne, Orla’s godmother. Prayers of the faithful were recited by, Jacqui Curran, Eamonn McDonald, Amy Dowling. Damien Barron. The Loreto Choir sang during the mass led by Jacinta Cantwell. Canon Duggan welcomed everyone on behalf of the Lawlor family.
In his homily, he spoke of Orla’s many fine qualities, describing her as an all-round girl. “It is a sad day for Orla’s family, for her parents, brothers and sisters, Aidan, her boyfriend and indeed all the extended family, neighbours and many friends and work colleagues”.
He extended sympathy on behalf of the parish and hoped that the love, care and support shown to the family, which had been so evident during the past week would continue during the weeks and months ahead.
Orla’s sister, Ciara read the following tribute,
You’re not just a wonderful sister
But also a very good friend
And no matter what life has in store
I know on you I can depend
You’re a lovely person and I just want you to know
That wherever we go and whatever we do,
I’ll always love you so.
Aidan Scully, her partner, reflected on the happy times he and Orla had enjoyed and shared some of his memories with the congregation. As the coffin was carried from the church to the nearby graveyard, the haunting Taize Chant was sung by the choir.
Orla is survived by her parents, Pat and Patricia, brothers, Mark and David, sisters, Ann-Marie and Ciara, her partner, Aidan, sister-in-law, Vera, brother-in-law, Joe, aunts, uncles, godparents, nieces, Aoibhe and Jane, nephew, Hugh, cousins, relatives and her many friends and neighbours.
Month’s mind Mass
The Month’s Mind mass for Orla will be held on Sunday, June 10 in St Bennett’s Church at 10.30am.
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