Thursday, March 3, 2011

Len Hayden / Fintan Kinsella / Mary Germaine / Frances Coughlan / Walter Clancy / Vera Roche Matt Moloney

The second part of the missing postman story which was to appear today is postponed until next week.  Instead I want to acknowledge the passing of so many of our towns men and women over the last week or so. 

Helen Sparrow, formerly Len Hayden, from St. Patrick’s Avenue died in Cork.  Len was one of the first group of Ban Gardai who passed out of Garda Headquarters in Phoenix Park and she subsequently rose to the rank of sergeant.  Her father Paddy and her uncle John were members of the Carlow Kildare Brigade I.R.A. during the War of Independence.  John Hayden was imprisoned in the Curragh Camp and Mountjoy Jail during periods of that war, having been arrested by the R.I.C. during a raid on the Hayden family home in No. 7 Offaly Street. 

Mrs. Mai Dooley, the widow of the late Paddy Dooley of Dooley’s Bakery, Leinster Street, also passed away.  Members of the Dooley family were active members of the Sinn Fein party in the years leading up to the War of Independence.  In recent years she had lived in St. Patrick’s Avenue from where the young Len Hayden had left to join the Garda Siochana so many years ago. 

Another resident of St. Patrick’s Avenue who died recently was Mary Germaine.  Mary’s husband John, whose father was the legendary ‘Golly’ Germaine, passed away several years ago.

Fintan Kinsella of Grangemellon was a colleague of mine in the local Christian Brothers Secondary School.  His death at a relatively young age was a sad blow for his wife Mavis and his family.

Frances Coughlan of Avondale Drive succumbed to a debilitating illness from which she had suffered for many years.  Her parents had predeceased her some years ago and her late father Andy, who worked in the Wallboard factory, was responsible for bringing together a photographic record of that factory which today forms an important archive of Athy’s industrial past.

Matt Moloney, nephew of another school colleague of mine, Brendan Moloney of Prussellstown, Athy also died during the week.  A former employee of the I.V.I. he was a stalwart member of the local Pitch and Putt Club once located on May Connell’s lands at Prussellstown. 

Vera Roche left Athy almost 20 years ago but the announcement of her death brought back memories of Mount Offaly Press which she and her brother Paul Roche operated in the former cinema in Offaly Street.  That Press following on in the centuries old tradition of printing in Athy produced a number of booklets at a time when the printing process was not as technologically driven as it is today.

As I write this article I learn of the deaths of Eddie O’Brien of Carbery Park, Kathleen Payne of Forest Park and Marie Hayden Clancy of Shruleen Lane, all of whose deaths add to the long litany of lives lost in the last week or so.

The funeral of Walter Clancy brought together for a brief time many members of a previous generation of Athy folk who had scattered far and wide over time.  I had known Walter for many years and admired and respected his courage in challenging and overcoming difficulties he had experienced in his earlier life.  I had spoken to him on several occasions about his involvement in helping others to meet the same challenges he had faced and conquered.  The attendance at Walter’s funeral included a large number of those men and women whom he had helped and who in turn had helped each other over a number of years.

Walter’s older brother John gave a moving address at the end of the funeral mass in which he referred to Walter’s legacy.

‘Walter had a talent and ability to identify the shades or shadows in himself and others. That identification of darkness and light! His understanding of the “chiaroscuro” in the art of life helped him confront his own personal demons and to help so many others in the Fellowship over so many years. For how many of us can it be said:  “Walter saved my life”, “that man saved my family”; “I would not be here today but for Walter?” Certainly I could not so claim. These remarks were made to me last night and today by members of the Fellowship. And I understand he helped many more if not hundreds of others. We pay tribute and give thanks for that lifetime of service to his fellows. And yet how typically Athy! Get involved! “I can do it, so why not you? We can meet each challenge head-on.”  He did truly overcome, so can you? That is part of Walter’s challenging legacy.

The passing of so many in such a short period of time brings home to all of us the importance of community and the oft forgotten threads which make up the tapestry of community life in Athy.

To the families of all those who died recently we extend our deepest sympathy. 

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