The past week has left its mark in so many different ways on the community of Athy. On Friday night we tuned into the Late Late Show on RTE to eye with the rest of Ireland the glamorous world of fashion as the supermodels paraded up and down the catwalk at The Point in Dublin. Amongst them was a local girl, Jane Bradbury, daughter of Jimmy and Kay Bradbury of Ardreigh. She has carved a niche for herself in the high-flying world of fashion. Good to see a local girl do so well.
On the following night quite a lot of Athy folk decamped to the same venue in the docklands of Dublin to attend a concert by the singer known as Jack L. The “L” hides the surname Loughman, Jack being the son of Sean and Rose Loughman of Bennetsbridge. Athy folk gave him great support for what was the biggest concert date of his career to date and how well he responded to the adulation and applause which greeted him as he came out on the stage. His was a virtuoso performance, at times teasing his audience while all the time holding them spellbound with the depth and range of his singing. I have to admit to feeling somewhat out of place when I encountered the first young feathered boa wearer in the foyer of The Point prior to the concert. Apparently, this was an artful take-off of the artist himself who, towards the end of his performance, brought his own feathered boa into use much to the delight of his audience.
I was seated about six rows from the front where apparently the really serious Jack L. aficionados were to be found. The serious looking female civil service type of indeterminate age who sat to my left was a model of discretion prior to Jack’s appearance on stage. Upon his arrival, her overcoat came off, her hands were thrust up in the air and kept there throughout the performance, clapping to the beat while her normally staid body swayed and bobbed to the music. To my right were two younger females, obviously from the northern part of the island, whose accents recognised no borders where good music was concerned. They too took to the restricted space between the seats with an abandon bordering on the reckless as they swayed this way and that, oblivious to the bemused look on the face of the “middle-aged” man who demurely kept his posterior on the seat he had secured for the night at no little expense.
No doubt about it, Jack L is good. The CDs released by him to date easily confirm that fact. What the CDs cannot however capture, is the verve and the gutsy performance which is all part of the live gig. He strutted, he grinned, he teased, he postured and then he exploded in a cacophony of sound with a performance which, from first to last, was a pleasure to see and later to remember. It was a truly great performance from the former Scoil Eoin student who, as far as I can recall, once filled the ranks of the chorus in a musical put on in the local school.
It was also great to see so many from Athy amongst the appreciative audience. Not many of us elder citizenry would normally have the opportunity to mingle among the hallowed portals of The Point and so the chance to cheer on Sean and Rose Loughman’s son on his big night out was not an opportunity to be missed.
A few days later, we had occasion as a local community to share again, this time in grief, the sad news which came to us from across the world. Four young men, who had earlier in the day, set off no doubt in good spirits to start a well earned break from peace-keeping duties in the Lebanon were to die tragically before the day was out. As the news filtered back, first to Dublin, and then to the local community in South Kildare there was a palpable sense of loss that ones so young should be cut down so tragically in their prime.
Not for the first time the entire area was plunged into sadness by the uncomprehending, yet fateful turn of events which left local families without loved ones. Athy, over the years has borne the scars of many unhappy such occurrences and only two weeks ago I recounted the dreadful accidents on the Monasterevin Road and Gallowshill which resulted in the loss of so many lives. To lose a family member is always a terrible experience but to lose a loved one unexpectedly and without warning is a particularly hard loss to bear. The entire community of Athy, so willing to share in the successes of others amongst them, share also in the sorrowful times when the strength of family and friends provide a buffer and comfort against the ravages of the unexpected.
The tragic deaths of Declan Deere, John Murphy, Mathew Lawlor and Brendan Fitzpatrick brought to mind the tradition of military service with which our town is long associated. It is a tradition which is continued to this day with so many local families having members serving in our National Army. The proximity of The Curragh Camp inevitably has played its part in promoting army recruitment in South Kildare but equally important is the tradition built over past generations which recognises Athy and South Kildare as important centres for army recruits. Sons and fathers have often taken the same career as did their grandfathers who during the 1914-1918 War enlisted in huge numbers. It is an honourable tradition which finds its full expression in the willingness of so many young men, and now women, from this area to dedicate their careers to military life.
As I wrote at the beginning of this piece, it has been a strange week for our community. From the dizzy heights of success on the fashion catwalk and the music stage at the start of the week, we soon descended into the depths of collective sorrow as the bodies of the four young soldiers were returned home for burial. Life goes on even if never quite as before but somehow as a community we move on with our lives tempered by the shared successes and the sorrows of community life.
On Thursday the 24th February, the South Kildare association of An Taisce will hold a meeting in the Community Services Centre, Stanhope Street, commencing at 8pm. An Taisce fulfils an important role in our community and anyone interested in protecting the environment and the building heritage of our area is welcome to attend.