Thursday, June 6, 1996

Tadgh Brennan (2)

Tadhg Brennan's involvement in the social life of Athy in the post-War years was wholehearted and as befits the man he left his mark in the many areas in which he was involved. But not even he could regard his L.D.F. days during the Second World War as being particularly noteworthy. As a Private he soldiered under the local officers who included John Stafford, Matt McHugh, Paddy Dooley of Levitstown and Norman Plewman. He recalls attending Army Camps in Tramore on two occasions but missed the year when his friend and army colleague Pat Mulhall was accidentally shot while attending a lecture in the camp. Rumour has it that this was the only shot fired by the L.D.F. for the duration of the second World War. The L.D.F. recruits met each week marching from Emily Square to Geraldine Football Park where further marching routines were a major part of their training. Gun practice without ammunition live or otherwise was another part of the Geraldine field training. He remembers patrolling at night armed with a rifle, but again without ammunition spending four hour stints sometimes cycling between Athy and Cloney Bridge other times manning the bridges leading into the town. In his own words "nothing of interest ever happened unless one is to disregard the occasional use of an L.D.F. ground sheet by courting couples in the Peoples Park." The prospect of a Court Martial for misuse of L.D.F. equipment was very much a possibility on one night when the local Garda Sergeant came on a scene in the People's Park which by the light of his torch he could see was adorned by one of his own daughters. The L.D.F. lads as you can imagine were always popular and patrolling without ammunition in your rifle was a cheerless unexciting chore where a "lark in the Park" offered some diversion. I know the feeling of the luckless L.D.F. man on that occasion as a generation later the same scene was played out again. This time it was a different Garda Sergeant whose son was caught in similar circumstances in the same Park. The young man on being caught in the beam of his father's flashlamp bore more than a passing resemblance to a frightened rabbit caught in a lampers spotlight.

From Gaelic football to politics seemed an almost inevitable transition especially for someone like Tadhg involved from a very young age with the best traditions of Gaelic Ireland. In 1949 he joined the local Fianna Fail Cumann and successfully stood for the local Urban District Council in 1959. He remembers discussions even then concerning an Inner Relief Road and an Outer Relief Road for Athy which after 35 years are still being talked about as possibilities for the future. He remembers fondly those who were in the local Cumann at that time, all of whom have passed on. John W. Kehoe, M.G. Nolan, John Stafford, Liam Ryan, Tom Moore, Eddie Purcell, Joe Murphy, Christy "Bluebeard" Dunne, Mick McHugh and Paddy Dooley. Paddy was later to be elected to Dail Eireann as a Fianna Fail T.D. in 1959 following a campaign the success of which owed much to his Athy colleagues M.G. Nolan, Liam Ryan and Tadhg Brennan.

Sport and politics and the practice of law seemed more than enough for one man but he also found time to be involved in the Social Club and amateur dramatics with the Social Club players. He regards the Social Club started by Fr. Morgan Crowe with Joe Hickey, Tim Hickey, M.G. Nolan, Tim O'Sullivan, Liam Ryan, John Stafford and Pat Mulhall as the greatest social asset the town of Athy has had in the last 50 years. The Club commenced as the Geraldine Tennis Club on the Carlow Road and with the purchase of the British Legion Hall in St. John's Lane, added billiards and badminton to the range of Club activities. In 1941 or 1942 the Club started an amateur dramatic society which was a most successful adjunct to the Club for the following 21 years. Highlight of those years on the amateur stage was the Social Club players success in the Fr. Matthew Drama Festival in Dublin in 1949. Tadhg and his colleagues won the highest award then available for amateur dramatics in Ireland with Frank Carney's play "The Righteous Are Bold". Actors and actresses remembered from those days include Jo and Florrie Lawler, Ger Moriarty, Ken Reynolds, Dave Walsh, Tommy Walsh, May Fenelon, Liam Ryan, Kitty McLoughlin, Nellie Fox, Mollie Moore, Dermot Mullan, Patsy O'Neill, Mary Harrington and Joe Martin. The Social Club players worked with many famous dramatists and producers as they sought to scale the dramatic heights. Many still recall the involvement of Lennox Robinson of the Abbey Theatre, also P.J. O'Connor of Radio Eireann and Isley and McCabe of the Gaiety Theatre. They all travelled to Athy as guest Directors of productions put on by the Social Club players in the Town Hall or the Club premises in St. John's Lane. Tadhg was highly regarded as an actor, bringing to his roles an intensity of feeling and expression worthy of many performances on the Dublin stage.

All the time Tadhg continued to carry on a very successful legal practice in Athy and was appointed State Solicitor in 1963. He resigned from his practice in 1978 on taking up an appointment as County Registrar for County Kildare, a position he held until 1990. He moved to Naas on being appointed County Registrar but has returned to live in Athy and has brought with him the rich store of memories of his younger years spent in Athy.

In a legal career stretching back over 50 years Tadhg has witnessed many changes in the law from both sides of what I may call the legal divide. Firstly as a defender of those who stood charged before the Courts, like all good lawyers he brought to his task an extraordinary degree of detachment and an ability to suspend disbelief. In later years as State Solicitor his legal training and experience was put to work in the interest of the State in many successful prosecutions of those who infringed the Criminal Code. In whatever role he performed whether in Court, on stage or on the playing field in his younger days, Tadhg always brought to his task energy, skill and authority.

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