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Choral farewell for coronavirus victim, 83, on final journey | UK news


At 12.30pm on Wednesday, 83-year-old Alice Kennedy departed from London and headed to Dublin for the very last time. Kennedy, a working-class Irish woman who died shortly after contracting the coronavirus, “wasn’t alone” on that final journey home.

Across the UK capital, where Kennedy lived for over 50 years, friends and loved ones marked the moment the plane took off by lighting a candle, saying a prayer, or singing a song. The Irish Pensioners Choir, of which Kennedy was a leading member, overcame many technical difficulties to lend their voice to a video of the song Going Home that was widely shared on social media and played later at her funeral in Clonaslee, county Laois.

The 83-year-old, who was described as an “adventurous” woman, lived in a council block in Kentish Town, north London. After retiring from her job at John Lewis, she had been the chair of the Irish Elderly Advice Network (IEAN) for more than 10 years.

Kennedy was said to have taken a whole new lease on life after retiring. She busked at Westminster station as part of the choir, took leading roles in plays, and was set to perform in Trafalgar Square on St Patrick’s Day.

As well as her fond memories of Kennedy, Nora Mulready, head of culture at the IEAN, spoke of her frustration with the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and delay in advising people to stay home. “Alice was sat in my office on the day we made the decision to close everything and we were putting the house in order to shut down everything.

“She said to me: ‘The minute the prime minister tells me to stay at home, I’ll stay at home and not come back out.’ She trusted the prime minister, she trusted the government, but that advice came very late. I definitely think lives have been lost that didn’t need to be lost because for some reason the prime minister didn’t give the advice early enough to older people.”

Mulready described Kennedy as “an incredible ambassador for older people” who constantly challenged people’s perception of older people in how she lived her life and how she encouraged others to.

Tributes came flooding in after news of Kennedy’s death, including from the Irish president, Michael D Higgins.

In a letter to the family, Higgins wrote: “I have long been an admirer of Alice’s work as chair of the Irish Elderly Advice Network and the driving force behind the Irish Pensioners’ Choir.

“Alice epitomised what is best in Ireland’s diaspora, having made such a valuable contribution over several decades as an active leader within London’s Irish Community.

“Alice was a most noble daughter of Ireland and her service to her community was immense.”

While London wasn’t her final resting place, Mulready said the city was also her home. “She represents the immigrant story and dilemma – the dual pull of two places. She was a Londoner, but she was county Laois, and as Irish as they come.”

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