With a simple wish, a home town gathers to farewell its Irish lass
IT WAS with a simple wish that Jill Meagher's parents and brother farewelled her on Irish soil: ''Looking ahead to that time when we can be with you again and play frisbee,'' the note in the service book read.
Before that service more than 1000 mourners led a silent procession through the streets of Drogheda, Ms Meagher's home town. They walked to the steps of St Peter's Church, where she had been baptised, and watched as close family and friends released six white pigeons in celebration of her life.
In the packed church, Father Oliver Devine, who married Jill and Tom four years ago, spoke of a young woman whose death had touched so many. ''From Melbourne to Drogheda, from Dublin to Perth, from Boyle in Roscommon to Brisbane in Australia, and around the world, all of us have been touched by Gillian Meagher's tragic passing from us,'' he told mourners.
In memory of ... Jill Meagher's uncle, Michael McKeon, leads a procession out of the church after the memorial service in Drogheda. Photo: Ciara Wilkinson
"She has touched the hearts of all of us even if we only knew her for a short time or even if we didn't know her at all apart from what we have learnt from the media.''
Echoing the reflections at the Melbourne service, mourners remembered Jill Meagher as a creative, loving woman who maintained a deep connection with her Irish heritage despite resettling in Australia.
Father Devine recalled how a decade ago, when Jill worked at the Brown Thomas lifestyle store, she had served Kylie Minogue. "She was shocked to realise that Kylie was actually shorter than herself!"
Hometown honors Jill
Jill's family and friends release some doves outside St Peter's Church in Drogheda. Photo: Ciara Wilkinson
Jill was known for her love of music and singing, but even her husband Tom questioned some of her tastes.
In a poem penned for their wedding, which was brought to the altar, Jill wrote: "He taught me that listening to Jewel just wasn't cool; Tried to convince me that Shakespeare was but a fool; After listening to all this waffle I just knew, So I wrote on the back of a Tesco [shop] receipt, I Love You."
Father Devine said that Jill's brutal murder just over two weeks ago was proof that ''bad things can happen to good people and that, this side of the grave, we have no rational explanation why".
A friend of Jill, Roisin Burke, asked for prayers for everyone in Ireland and Australia affected by her death.
''[We] will build upon the positivity shown through Jill's life and continue to treasure the beautiful but fragile gift of life that God has given us,'' she said.
After the Mass, Jill's aunt Catherine McKeon-Halpin told the congregation of the horror the family suffered two weeks ago.
''Her loss has left a hole in all our hearts and words cannot express the pain and sorrow we all feel. Those who knew Gillian will never forget her, her lovely smile, her bubbly character, her charm and most of all her love for life. She had time for everyone and everyone had time for her. All those who knew her, loved her.
''Gillian and Tom set out on a new life together with all the hopes and dreams that young married couples have … a new world lay at their feet and they were going to make it their own.
''All this however was not to be. It was cut short by a despicable act one Friday night that has left us all numb. To our friends and the people of Drogheda, Australia and especially Brunswick who marched in their thousands, you gave our families and me the courage to get through these past two weeks.
''May we offer you our sincere thanks.''