Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Sullivan Brothers and Malachy Cardiff

It was surely a coincidence that their great grandfathers travelled from Cork about the same time at the turn of the last century to settle in this area.  Thomas McEvoy settled in Vicarstown, while James Sullivan came to live and work in the Castlemitchell area.  Three generations later the Sullivan and McEvoy families were united when Denis Sullivan, one of twelve siblings from Foxhill, married Ann McEvoy of Kilberry.  Both families were deservedly immensely proud when in Emily Square on Monday night of last week Shane and Adrian Sullivan, great grandsons of the two Corkonians, were welcomed back to their home town following their successful run in the “You’re a Star Competition”.  There has seldom been such an enthusiastic gathering in the Square, which in it’s lifetime stretching back over 300 years, hosted political, military and social gatherings of all kinds.  Arthur Griffith and De Valera spoke from a platform set against the facade of the early 19th century Town Hall, while successful teams from Athy’s county champions of 1987 to the later Leinster title holders, Kildare, have graced Emily Square with their presence.

I have seen a photograph of the Griffith/De Valera meeting and was in attendance when the football champions came to receive the applause and appreciation of the Athy people.  However, I believe that those who turned out for the Sullivan Brothers last week exceeded anything I have ever seen before in the Town Square.  It surely was a remarkable occasion, and one may I say which was graced with great aplomb by the Chairman of the Town Council, Richard Daly, who acted as Master of Ceremonies.  Shane and Adrian delighted their fans with a number of songs and then spent well over an hour dealing with many requests for autographs from young and old alike.

It was a wonderful occasion and one which brought a fitting end to the weeks of support and encouragement which the singers received from the people of Athy and elsewhere.  There have been many great occasions in Emily Square, but the night of March 6th 2006 must rank high on the list of those events which will be remembered for a long time.

But even as the cheering echoed beneath the Town Hall Chambers, where hanging Judge Norbury plied his deadly trade during the period of the 1798 Rebellion, sadness cast its long shadows over the gathering.  News had reached many of us earlier in the day that 50 year old Malachy Cardiff had died suddenly at his place of work in Tegral.  Malachy was a great supporter of the Sullivan Brothers and like them, he and his brothers Tony and Damien were songsters who had graced many local functions over the years.  Indeed, Damien and Malachy Cardiff were up to recent years the most successful and entertaining singers in this area and as the Sullivan Brothers star ascends, the man who entertained us so well for so long passes away.

It was a cruel blow, especially for Malachy’s family, his wife Ann and the Cardiff children.  Malachy travelled to the Helix on the penultimate night of the singing contest to support the Sullivan Brothers and with them that night also, and every night of the competition, was Malachy’s brother Tony.  Indeed, Tony, a leading member of Athy’s Musical and Dramatic Society, and like his brothers, a musician of exceptional talent, was helping and guiding the Sullivan Brothers throughout the competition and was on hand on the night of their return to Athy to supervise the sound system for the new singing stars.

Malachy Cardiff’s death is a tragic loss of a young man who contributed so much in terms of his musical ability to the local community.  The Musical and Dramatic Society, the Folk Mass Group and countless charity gigs over the years, all affirm his generous commitment to the local community.  Athy Lions Club, part of the largest charity organisation in the world, has over many years been the recipient of the generosity of the Cardiff brothers, Malachy and Damien, who time and time again willingly gave of their time and talents to help some charitable event or other.  Malachy’s passing is a terrible tragic loss for us all.  Ar dhéis Dé go raibh a anam.

I received a number of letters and e-mails last week, all from overseas and all of them very welcome for the kind words and the information they brought.  Mary Caulfield wrote to me from America for a copy of Eye on Athy’s Past and in passing referred to her great grandfather, Dan Caulfield of Levitstown who lived through the 1798 Rebellion.  Caulfield was a supporter of the Irish cause and while I don’t at present have a great deal of information on him, I hope to correct that in the not too distant future.  In the meantime if there is anyone who can give me any information on the Caulfield family, and especially Dan Caulfield, I would be delighted to hear from them.

Joe Carbery wrote to me from Victoria, Australia having read some of my articles on World War I and the involvement in that war of the men from Athy.  Like myself he grew up in a nationalist setting which showed intolerance and at best indifference for the men who enlisted in the British Army and fought in foreign wars.  In the same way that my prejudiced attitude towards the first World War and the men who fought in it changed as I read more and more on the topic and on the social history of the time, so Joe’s attitude also changed.  As he wrote in ending his letter to me, “a country’s past, like a person’s character, is made up of many parts and the denial of any of them lessens the true expression of that country’s persona”.  It was nice to hear from Joe Carbery, a brother of Jerry’s, whom I believe first went to the Southern Hemisphere, specifically New Zealand, almost 24 years ago.

Another letter received during the week was from John Clandillon, who lives in Cheshire in England, and who tells me that his grandfather was born in White’s Castle in 1870.  I hope to bring the story of the Clandillon connection with Athy to you at some future date.

The High Court has given its judgment on the Kildare County Manager’s application for a Judicial Review of the An Bord Pleanala’s decision to reject the Inner Relief Road proposal.

That decision now puts an end to the Inner Relief Road which was first proposed in the mid-1960’s and which has devoured vast amounts of taxpayers and ratepayers monies in the intervening 40 years.  The latest expensive, and quite needless move by the County Manager to overturn An Bord Pleanala’s decision, has not only cost the public dearly but has wasted much valuable time which should have been spent in bringing forward alternative road proposals.  The County Manager has failed to progress the developmental needs of Athy and has ignored the well signalled wishes of the local people for a road development which would enhance, rather than destroy, the priceless fabric of the town centre.  His judgment has been faulty and quite frankly his position as County Manager for Kildare is now untenable.

Others, whose judgment have also been sadly faulty are the Councillors at Town Council level and County Council level who pushed through the Inner Relief Road project, mindless of the wishes of the people of Athy.  There was only one County Councillor in the area who opposed the Inner Relief Road.  Councillor Mark Dalton deserves credit for his principled stand on the issue.  His County Council colleagues in this area deserve no credit for what they did.  As for the Town Councillors, the best that can be said for most of them is that their judgment was on par with their apparent inability to conduct the business of the town in the manner which we are entitled to expect from Town Fathers.  Exempted from that criticism are Councillors Dalton, Cunnane and English who have consistently opposed the madcap road scheme which by virtue of the High Court decision has now been consigned to the waste bin.

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