Guns roar in tribute to Melbourne priest

Three volleys of rifle shots cracked out over peaceful North Carlton yesterday but didn't bring any police or emergency services running, even if some people jumped at the noise.

The Herald-Sun reports that it was the first official military funeral at the Melbourne General Cemetery that any of the curators could recall in their many decades of service.

"The closest probably was a dedication for two American soldiers of their Civil War with a few shots, but that was about 15 years ago," said cemetery manager Kevin Sheele.

Honoured yesterday was Monsignor Bernie O'Regan, well known in Richmond football circles, a chaplain to the racing industry but also a former RAAF chaplain-general.

He died last week, aged 79.

Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart led a service for him at St John the Baptist Church in Clifton Hill.

The cemetery has been closed to public burials for many years. But there is still plenty of space in the chapel crypt, which holds the remains of 300 Melbourne priests, with room for 100 more.

Six sturdy aircraftsmen lifted Monsignor O'Regan's coffin on to their shoulders. Another bearer carried Monsignor O'Regan's medals, including the OBE he called "other buggers' work".

The decorations were that of an air commodore, his senior rank as RAAF chaplain-general during the 1960s and '70s, with medals for his service in the Vietnam war and in Malaysia.

After Bishop Joseph O'Connell said prayers for about 80 people inside the chapel, the firing party performed.

Even so, grey-haired ladies in the pews winced as the first volley of shots startled them.

Cpl John Collinson sounded the Last Post.

Guns roar in tribute to priest (Herald-Sun 30/9/05)

30 Sep 2005