Page last updated at 15:45 GMT, Monday, 27 October 2008

Irish wake entering internet age

Plate of sandwiches sitting on floor

It is a tradition that has been part of Irish culture for centuries.

People gather to remember their lost loved ones over tea, sandwiches, and, occasionally, something stronger.

But all that could be about to change, as the traditional Irish wake goes online.

The brainchild of Joe McGuiggan from County Londonderry and Hugh O'Donnell from Donegal, offers family and friends the chance to pay tribute over the internet.

Mr McGuiggan explained that he first had the idea for the site after a friend's death.

"I lost a good friend, but because of one thing and another, after a few years I realised I didn't have that much of an opportunity to share in her memory," he said.

"I thought it would be nice to have a place on the internet where you could maybe visit and read about her.

"People could share memories, and maybe a photograph," he said.

That was the great strength of the wake, the sharing of stories and celebrating the life of people
Joe McGuiggan

Mr McGuiggan thought no more about it until his mother died last year.

"When my own mother died, I realised from the family's point of view the importance of hearing the memories from friends and neighbours.

"I found all the stories and anecdotes very comforting, and I thought more and more that an online memorial space would be of benefit to family and friends.

"Given that nearly every Irish family has relatives living overseas who very often can't get to the wake, we thought it would be a great opportunity for people abroad to share a memory or a photograph," he said.

Mr McGuiggan said he hoped the site would give a modern boost to the old traditions.

"It is very accessible," he said.

"We created a memorial page for my mother, and our relations in Canada were able to share memories online.

"Unfortunately, I think the wake is dying out in a lot of places.

"That was the great strength of the wake, the sharing of stories and celebrating the life of people, and we may as well make use of the internet to allow people to continue to do that," he said.

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