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On the far side of Bantry Bay, near Castletownbere, a farmer named Ted Lowney was walking his land on 13 September when he noticed a black wellington boot protruding from waterweeds near the pier. Upon investigation the gardaí were called, and identity made from a laundry tag bearing the name of Farrell sewn to the inside neck of the sodden black balaclava. In Castletownbere Hospital dental records removed the last shred of hope for his family, and at the autopsy death was attributed to asphyxia by drowning. With fictional symmetry, the period spent in the water exactly matched Jim’s immersion in the iron lung. The small funeral at St James’ Church of Ireland in Durrus was attended by family members with the exception of his father, who was too ill to travel, and by friends from his youth, as well as a good turnout of local people. The coffin was carried by his brother Richard, Jerry O’Mahony, Peter Burgess and the Daly brothers. ‘It was desperately sad,’ recounted Hilary, who travelled down with Jack Kirwan and her sister Jill. ‘Afterwards I just remember thinking incredulously, Jimmy’s buried. But there were two howlers which would have appealed to him hugely. As with any remote little Protestant church in Ireland, there was a record player instead of an organ and choir, and our music relied entirely on a ’78 record of hymns. Halfway through one, the record stuck, something I knew, as we were standing there, that he would have absolutely loved. And when the coffin was being carried out at the end of the service I saw the name inscribed on the plate and it was James O’Farrell.’ The site of his grave was within a few yards of the Bantry road, level with the spot where he used to brake for the bend. It overlooked the narrow stretch of water at the tip of Dunmanus Bay, and the inscription would be as modest and as guarded – so eloquent, so succinct! – as that on his books. ‘James Gordon Farrell Novelist. 1935–1979.’ 374 Epilogue The funeral in Durrus delineated the Irish compartment, with only Bob and Kathie Parrish, who were already familiar with the area, making the journey from London. On 19 October the English compartment was celebrated at a memorial service at St Bride’s in Fleet Street, organised by his brother Richard and conducted by his cousin Tom Farrell, with an address by Bob Parrish, attended by his family and his London friends. St Bride’s is a church with lateral pews facing towards each other across a central aisle, and the impression many took away was of rank upon rank of stylish women, of whom a large proportion was in tears. ‘The memorial service was full of the best-looking women in publishing,’ mused James Hale. ‘One looked around and thought a little.’ The ex-call girl immortalised as Lucy was present, on her own. Afterwards she ran up to hug Malcolm Dean and Garry Arnott before disappearing. Most of Jim’s girlfriends sat together; he had, they agreed beforehand, left them to support one another. Patricia sat with the poet Derek Mahon, directly opposite Beryl Bainbridge, and Olivia Manning arrived late, wearing purple and leaning heavily on a stick. ‘Looking sad and pinched,’ as Hilary Spurling told Sonia Orwell, ‘and perhaps just a tiny bit pleased at having survived him.’ ‘Perhaps these things shouldn’t happen at all,’ commented Sonia from Paris. ‘In general they’re lugubrious affairs and leave one gloomier than one was before and desperately in need of a drink despite it being the wrong time of day . . . And of course Olivia Manning was wild with joy at outliving anyone!’ Margaret Drabble was one of those who could not weep, though she yearned to do so. ‘“Nobody thinks Stephen would have wanted a church service,” says the heroine of The Gates of Ivory, “but what else is there? You can’t hold a service in Sainsbury’s or Bertorelli’s, can you?”’ Jim’s sudden death inevitably gave rise to speculation, and conspiracy theories abounded, based upon a struggle on the rock and fatal knowledge; some suggested spying and MI5, others the Provisional IRA. But gradually the belief gained ground that suicide had to be the explanation, fuelled by the quantity of letters arriving posthumously to recipients unaware of the long Irish postal strike. ‘J.G. killed himself,’ guessed Andrew Sinclair tersely, remembering Pamplona, as he took a phone call...


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