Pat Hume was source of calm during chaotic times, mourners told

A son of Pat Hume, the widow of former SDLP leader and Nobel peace prize winner John, has paid tribute to her warmth, kindness and wisdom at her funeral.

Mrs Hume, a mother-of-five from Londonderry, died at home after a short illness on Thursday, surrounded by family.

The death of 83-year-old Mrs Hume, a former teacher, came just over a year after that of her politician husband.

Irish President Michael D Higgins was among mourners gathered for requiem mass at St Eugene’s Cathedral in Derry.

John and Pat Hume
John and Pat Hume (Niall Carson/PA)

Also there was former Ulster Unionist leader Lord Trimble, who jointly won the Nobel prize with Mr Hume for their efforts to strike Northern Ireland’s historic 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

Numbers inside the cathedral, where the funeral of Mr Hume took place last year, were limited due to coronavirus restrictions.

In an address to mourners, Mrs Hume’s son Aidan said: “Dad would often say that he was a parcel and mum delivered him.

“But that only tells a very small part of the story. Mum was at his right hand throughout his entire life – his best friend, his closest confidante, his loving wife, his trusted adviser, his political antenna.

“I don’t think dad would mind me saying this, she was definitely the more glamorous side of the partnership.

“And that’s even before we consider the endless backscratching, moderating his chocolate intake and putting up with him having his dessert while she was still eating her main course.

“For us, she was the calm at the centre of chaotic times, able to impart a sense of safety and love which sustained us when the world around us was full of uncertainties.

“No matter how crazy or how difficult the situation, she was simply unflappable.”

Pat Hume funeral
Michael D Higgins (centre), the President of Ireland, arrives for the funeral of Pat Hume (Liam McBurney/PA)

Mrs Hume worked alongside her husband for several decades, from the beginning of the civil rights movement in the 1960s until after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.

She later cared for him when he developed dementia.

She was awarded the Irish Red Cross Lifetime Achievement award in 2018 and a foundation honouring her and her husband’s peace and reconciliation work was launched last year.

Mr Hume told mourners of his mother’s love of teaching and passion for the Irish language.

He spoke of her infectious laugh and love of people.

“Mum always focused on the positives, always smiling, always happy, deeply spiritual and had an incredible faith,” he said.

Mr Hume added: “Human connection was fundamental to mum’s existence. She was a people person. She treated everyone she met with the same respect and the same remarkable grace, no matter where they were from or whatever their station in life.

“She had an incredible ability to establish a special connection with everyone she met and to find a way to brighten up the lives of all of those around her.”

A number of Mrs Hume’s grandchildren read prayers during the service.

Former Stormont first minister Lord Trimble
Former Stormont first minister Lord Trimble (centre) at the funeral (Liam McBurney/PA)

Bishop of Derry Donal McKeown paid tribute to Mrs Hume in his opening remarks.

“The great people of the world are not those who are famous for being famous but those who help others dream that great things are possible,” he said.

In his homily, Father Paul Farren said she was “pure in heart”.

“Pat had the purest heart of anybody I’ve ever met,” he said.

The priest described her as a “humble and beautiful person” who always put others first.

“Much has been said about John and Pat and their unity in peacemaking, and it’s all true. And if John brought the brilliant mind to the peacemaking, then Pat brought the pure heart,” he said.

Pat Hume funeral
(Left-right) Pat Hume’s children John Junior, Mo, Therese, Aidan (left back) and Aine (right back) arrive at St Eugene’s Cathedral (Liam McBurney/PA)

Turning to Mrs Hume’s children, Father Farren said: “I know for you, Therese, Aine, Aidan, John and Mo, your mother, as Aidan mentioned, created an oasis of peace and security, of joy and trust for you in the midst of much turmoil and danger in your young lives.

“When your home was being attacked because your parents were committed to peace your mother held you and protected you and never allowed you to lose confidence in the truth that peace is always more noble and stronger than violence.”

He said she acted as a mother to everyone.

“I suppose the greatest example of her mothering came in how she cared for John in his long illness in the last years of his life,” he said.

Father Farren appeared to make reference to Mrs Hume’s view of UK Government plans for a statute of limitations on prosecuting Troubles crimes as he referenced her work with victims of the conflict.

“If you went to Pat with a problem your suffering became her suffering, your pain became her pain, your problem became hers to find a solution to, and she found solutions in her astute, wise, compassionate and quiet way that always avoided any type of fuss or focus on herself,” he said.

“The empathy that Pat had was unique and incredible, and that is why her work with Daphne Trimble (Lord Trimble’s wife) after the Good Friday Agreement with those who are victims was so important to her.

“That is why she found it abhorrent that anybody or any government would believe that a line could be drawn under the pain and suffering of people.

“Her commitment to truth and to justice was consistent and unquestionable.”

Pat Hume funeral
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood at the funeral of Pat Hume (Liam McBurney/PA)

After the funeral, people lined the streets outside the cathedral and applauded as the hearse travelled to the City Cemetery for burial.

Ahead of the funeral, current SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said the people of Derry were united in grief for Mrs Hume.

“It’s a sad day. It’s a sad day for the Hume family above everybody else,” he said.

“I think the people of Derry are united in their grief today but we’re also very thankful for the life that Pat had and everything that she gave to us and for us.

“She gave an awful lot for the people of this city and for the people of Ireland, sacrificed so much, but was committed to the very end to the peace process and changing our society, to lifting people out of poverty and creating a more just Ireland, and we’re very grateful for everything she did for us.”