Thursday, May 30, 1996

Tadgh Brennan (1)

So far as I can find out Tadhg Brennan holds the distinction of being the longest qualified Solicitor in County Kildare. It was October 1944 that Tadhg, until then apprenticed to another local Solicitor Paddy O'Neill, qualified as a Solicitor. Legal work in those days was scarce, and the leisurely pace of life and litigation allowed Solicitors offices to operate without Secretaries or staff qualified to churn out the letters which are the trademark of today's lawyers. Indeed Tadhg's first task and on his first day as an apprentice Solicitor was to type out, with two fingers, a couple of letters for his master on an old fashioned manual typewriter.

Paddy O'Neill, brother of Dr. Joe O'Neill, then had offices on the first floor of Michael Anthony's Auctioneers in Emily Square where Tadhg as a young apprentice had Jack Lawler as a work colleague. Tadhg, who was 76 last month, was born in Canal House in Monasterevin where his father Fintan was the canal agent. The Brennan family moved to Athy in 1924 when Fintan was appointed Magistrates Clerk in place of T.J. Bodley. Coincidentally, the Brennan family initially resided in No. 5 Offaly Street where 21 years later another family whose son was also to embark on a legal career also lived. That same house was the offices of the District Court for a few short years after Fintan Brennan's arrival before being relocated in the Town Hall.

It was his father's suggestion, obviously based on his experience as a Magistrate Clerk and later a District Court Clerk which led Tadhg to undertake legal studies and an eventual apprenticeship with Paddy O'Neill. When the time came in March 1945 for Tadhg to set up his own Solicitors practice his aunt Kitty Heffernan, then living in Emily Row, offered her front room as an office. "Tadhg R. O'Braoinan", Solicitor, remains as the name of the practice to this day although Tadhg has long gone from it. The entire house has now been taken over by the practice which the young man started in the front room over 50 years ago.

Business was slow for quite a while and the opening of a branch office in Monasterevin and later in Rathangan helped to pass the hours even if sometimes it did not always increase the fee income. In those leisurely days Tadhg occasionally cycled to his branch offices with a small bundle of files on the bicycle carrier. As he admits himself he often made the same journey the following week, without having taken the tape off the carefully preserved files in the interim. This was a routine he maintained until about 1955 when his own apprentice Aidan O'Donnell qualified as a Solicitor. Judge O'Donnell as he is now, established a legal practice in Portarlington taking with Tadhg's blessing the Monasterevin branch practice which Tadhg had earlier developed.

All the time Tadhg was fulfilling his love for Gaelic games and as a boarder in Knockbeg College he played with the legendary Tommy Murphy in two Leinster Colleges Finals. Unfortunately Knockbeg lost on both occasions to St. Mel's College. Minor football for Athy G.F.C. was soon followed by Senior football for the same Club. With Athy Tadhg played in three Senior County Finals winning his only Championship medal in 1942. He recalls with a chuckle how as a young man of 21 years playing in his first final in 1941 as centre half back he was, to use his own words, "demolished by my opponent, Mick Keating a Garda Sergeant, who was an old man". The following years the same teams contested the County Final and this time Athy won following a replay. It may have been purely a coincidence that the same "old man, Mick Keating" was injured only after five minutes play although Tadhg hastens to add, he was not marking him that day.

In 1943 he played for U.C.D. and was honoured by the County selectors on two occasions playing against Offaly in October 1943 and Wexford in April 1944. On both occasions he joined two other local players Tommy Mulhall and Dinny Fox who were also County players. Tadhg's involvement with the local G.A.A. Club was not confined to playing football and he served in various Officer positions over the years. Recalling the great players who played with Athy he mentions Mick Mannion, a Galway man who taught in the local C.B.S., Paul Matthews, Joe Gibbons, Jack Dunne, George Comerford a Clare Garda stationed in Athy, Jim Malone, Jim Clancy, Stephen Whelan, Barney Dunne, Tommy Mulhall, 'Bird' Rochford and Joe Byrne. The heyday of the Athy football Club according to Tadhg was the years 1931 to 1937 when the Club won three Senior County Championships.

To be concluded next week.
Last week Jim Connor died in England where he had lived since leaving Castlemitchell in the 1950's. Jim and I had corresponded in the past and during the hot summer of 1995 he called on me while on his last holidays in his beloved south Kildare. I later had a great night of chat in Mary Prendergast's house with Jim and John Fennin as they recalled the "old days" in Castlemitchell. Jim's love for his native place was obvious as he brought me around Churchtown Graveyard that same evening, pointing out its many important features and passing on the local lore. He was particularly proud of the water fount which he had rescued on an earlier visit and had preserved on the site. Jim was later the subject of an Eye on the Past which I know gave him immense pleasure. Like so many of the missing generations from our area he had to live out his adult life far from the townlands he loved. His passing follows not so long after that of his friend Joe Bermingham with whom he was involved in the founding of Castlemitchell G.F.C. and the provision of the local Community Hall. Jim will be sadly missed.

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