Last weekend I attended two celebrations of service to our community. One was the well publicised corporate celebrations of Macra na Feirme's Golden Jubilee. Amongst those honoured was Paddy Keogh of Kilcoo whose involvement in Athy's first farmers club and the national organisation which developed from it was acknowledged and commemorated by the presentation to him of a replica of the sundial earlier unveiled in Emily Square by President Mary Robinson.
Macra's celebrations acknowledged the organisations debt to the foresight of the local men who founded Athy's club. Foremost amongst them was Stephen Cullinan, a young Galway born agricultural instructor then teaching in the local Technical School. The more one reads and hears about Stephen Cullinan the more one appreciates what an extraordinary man he was. His tragic early death in 1951 undoubtedly deprived Macra and Irish farming generally of a talent which was difficulty to replace.
The second celebration was that of Brother Joe Quinn's Diamond Jubilee as a member of the Irish Christian Brothers. His life, like that of his brothers in religion was spent out of the glare of press and publicity but yet his achievements as an educator and a fosterer of Irish sporting traditions was recognised by many persons who came from all corners of Ireland to pay tribute to the 76 year old Christian Brother.
Brother Quinn entered the Christian Brothers novitiate on the 10th of January 1934 and in September 1939 as the war clouds were descending over Europe he travelled to take up duty in Tuam, Co. Galway. The milestones in his life are measured in terms of hurling and football finals and like a drunk who will direct a lost traveller using public houses as points of reference, Brother Quinn uses the September activities in Croke Park as his personal yard stick. But on Final days in Croke Park the young Joe Quinn was required to follow his Superiors bidding of walking alone "into the countryside", the only acceptable recreation available to Christian Brothers. For a young man reared on a daily diet of Gaelic football such deprivations were part of the personal sacrifices expected of a Christian Brother. However in 1945 he succeeded in obtaining a coveted ticket for the All Ireland football final. Fate dealt him another hand however and his commitment and resolve was tested when he received instructions to transfer to Doneraile, Co. Cork on the Saturday before the Final.
One can picture his dismay and disappointment as he embarked on the train journey out of Kingsbridge Station as the excited football followers streamed into Dublin. It was with a heavy heart that he let his prized stand ticket flow on the breeze as he threw it out of the train approaching Doneraile. He was later to attend his first All Ireland Final in 1947 and I doubt if he has missed one since.
However it is not as a follower of football that we remember Brother Quinn. It is as a man representative of that great band of men - the Irish Christian Brothers - who have given of their all for the youth of this country. Brother Joe Quinn's involvement in basketball in Athy is well known. Sine he came to Athy in 1978 he has encouraged the development of the game to the point where it is now an important sporting activity in the South Kildare area.
On the Friday before President Mary Robinson came to Athy for the Macra celebrations the colleagues and friends of Brother Quinn joined him in his celebration of life and service to communities throughout Ireland. A service which in the best traditions of the Christian Brothers saw him make many personal sacrifices for the education and welfare of the young people in his charge.
The weekend celebrations of Macra na Feirme and Brother Joe Quinn were a public recognition of service to our community and to the jubilairians, Golden and Diamond, Macra and Brother Joe, we extend good wishes for the future and gratitude for the past.