It is not always possible to fulfil the wishes of those who passed away, but one family were able to do this, with far flung family crossing the world to come to Fermanagh to complete their late parents’ wishes.

Travelling from England and Australia, the family of Professor Brian and Kathleen Hartley gathered together last Saturday and took the Erne Water Taxi up the Erne to the mouth of Sillees River.

It was here that they scattered the ashes of the husband and wife.

Kathleen was the daughter of Albert and Emily Vaughan, who farmed at Granshagh on the banks of the Sillees.

Prof. Brian Hartley was a Fellow of the Royal Society, and a Professor of Biochemistry at Imperial College London.

Kathleen died in 2011, and Brian in 2021, and it was their wish to be reunited with Lough Erne.

Those present last Saturday spanned three generations of the Hartley family – Chris Hartley and his wife, Joanna, from Twickenham; daughter Helen and fiancée Patrick, from Balham, London; son Alex and wife Henrietta, and baby daughter Rosalind, from Peckham, London; David Hartley and son Robbie, from Ealing; and Patrick Hartley and wife Gill, from Melbourne, Australia, who all came to Fermanagh for the special occasion.

“The Erne Water Taxi is a lovely electric boat so it was a really quiet and peaceful little trip down to the mouth of the Sillees River, which is where my grandfather’s farm was,” explained Chris.

“We were all very happy to have fulfilled their wishes, and we drank a little toast to them. It wasn’t tearful – we felt that we were fulfilling their wishes.”

Fermanagh is a familiar place for Chris and his brothers, and holds a great attachment for the family.

“We spent all our summer holidays on the farm in Fermanagh, and in the early 1970s my parents bought a cottage down in Rossnowlagh and we commuted between the two – the farm and the cottage.

“All of our family memories are of summer holidays in Fermanagh. We are all very attached to the countryside here.”

With Patrick and his wife Gill having travelled from Melbourne, the family felt this was as good a time as any to fulfil their parents’ wishes, something that is not always possible, “especially coming from all over the world, as we have done; it’s not a very frequent occurrence, all coming together again”.

But come together, they did, and with Brian passing away during the Covid-19 pandemic, there were restrictions on his funeral, and Chris said it was nice to give him a “proper send-off”.

The family also paid thanks to Barry and Clare of Erne Water Taxi for making the occasion possible and memorable.