I have written before of Tadhg Brennan but a phone call this afternoon to tell me of his death prompted a re-visit to my memories of a man who was the epitome of what is best in an Irishman. He used the Irish version of his name Tadgh Ó Braonáin as a statement of his Irishness. His was an Irishness which conformed to the traditional understanding of the term. An avid gaelic football follower he gave decades of support and service to the Athy Club both as a player, mentor, official and supporter. He was a life-long supporter of the Fiánna Fáil party which he saw as the legitimate heir to those who championed the cause of Irish freedom in the early decades of the century. He was, in short, an Irish nationalist but devoid of the nasty extremism which is sometimes part and parcel of those who claim a similar allegiance.
I had known of Tadhg Brennan since I was a young lad in Offaly Street, palling around with Teddy Kelly, Willie Moore and others. The street was then a safe playground disturbed only by the very occasional motor car or lorry which sedately passed up and down. I can still picture in my mind’s eye a black Ford Poplar motor car which Tadhg Brennan parked outside his offices in Emily Square. The registration number was “IO …” and the rest is lost on me but I know that if I phone Teddy Kelly he would be able to recall even this little detail after the elapse of over 40 years. That Tadhg could park his car directly outside his offices without impeding traffic gives you some indication of what few cars were around in those days.
I remember Tadhg in those days as well as his father, that noble patrician Fintan Brennan, a district court officer who occupied the first floor offices at the rear of the Court House. Those same offices were reached from the ground floor entrance, the granite jambs which, to this day bear evidence of the handiwork of a 13 year old lad who carved his name into the ancient stone. The mark of the once thoughtless vandal is there to haunt him in his adulthood as he makes his twice monthly trip to the local court to defend others sometimes charged with far lesser offences. However, to return to Fintan Brennan, I am always reminded of my late mother when I think of Tadhg and his father Fintan. The father was a teetotaller, indeed the proud holder of the silver, or was it a gold medal, marking 50 years membership of the P.T.A.A. Tadhg on the other hand conformed to the traditional Irish male convention of imbibing well, sometimes perhaps a little more than was prudent. My mother, who herself quaffed a little sherry at weddings, wakes and such like always regarded a teetotaller, no matter how otherwise disruptive in his or her normal life, as an example for everyone else to follow. For her, the man or woman who drank was no good, although I think she might have had to revise this erroneous opinion when faced with her own sons early digressions into the delights of alcohol. In any event, Fintan and Tadhg were at two extremes of the alcohol barometer and insofar as my mother was concerned, Tadhg would never be as good as his father. The fact that he had bettered himself, qualified as a solicitor, taken up important offices as State Solicitor and later as County Registrar, meant not a jot to my mother who measured ones worth by reference to his drinking or non-drinking habits. Tadhg well knew of my mother’s opinion which she delivered with a matronly chuckle whenever she met Tadgh. Tadhg good naturadely humoured my mother and he often joked to me about her oft repeated claim to him “you’ll never be as good as your father”.
Fintan was a good man and he was undoubtedly an important man in the world of the G.A.A. and Athy social life in the first half of this century. His son Tadgh, who has now passed on in his 79th year was also a very good man who helped many people both professionally and otherwise throughout his long life. Like many more, I owe him a great debt and in my case its one I will continue to acknowledge. Tadgh set up his own legal practice in Athy in 1945 as I was to do 37 years later. He was very encouraging to me when I started 17 years ago and I am forever grateful to him for that encouragement.
As I said at the start of this piece Tadgh featured in an ‘Eye on the Past’ I wrote some years ago. Quite an extensive piece it was, extending over two weeks because of his involvement in so many different areas of life in Athy over the years. As a sportsman, he was a first class footballer winning a senior championship medal with Athy G.F.C. in 1942. The following year he first lined out for the county senior team in a match in Geraldine Park and played again for County Kildare in 1944. He was a leading light in Athy’s social club of the 1940’s and a cast member of the “Righteous Are Bold” which won the All-Ireland Drama Award in 1949. A former member of Athy Urban District Council, he served on the Council with such legendary figures as M. G. Nolan and Paddy Dooley.
I had the pleasure of interviewing, or rather listening to Tadhg, on many occasions and how delightful it was to hear him talk of Athy and its people of 40 or 50 years ago. On one of the last occasions we talked of times past, he later wrote to me setting out his memories of the characters in Athy in his young days. Such was the thoughtfulness of a man who had an abiding love for his adopted town for like me, he was not born here. Monasterevin laid claim as Tadgh’s birthplace but that did not deflect him from regarding Athy as his native place. For me, Tadgh Brennan or as he was wont to write Tadhg Ó Braonáin was an important part of a generation in Athy which has now almost disappeared. Pat Mulhall, Liam Ryan, and Tommy Walsh are but some of the names of his colleagues and friends in the social club who have pre-deceased him. For once I have to disagree with my mother. Tadhg was a good man who made many friends, helped many people and learned to enjoy life for what it is. A time for passing through and leaving the world a better place than you found it.
Last week we also buried Nancy wife of Paddy Walsh. A daughter of Paddy O’Rourke, the harness-maker of Stanhope Street, Nancy moved a few doors down the street when she set up home with her Ring County Waterford-born husband who first came to Athy in 1950. Like her husband Paddy, Nancy was very involved in her local community, and how appropriate it was to see the ladies of the local I.C.A.Guild provide a guard of honour on her last journey to St. Michael’s.
Our sympathies go to the families of Tadgh and Nancy.