Michael Kelly of 22 Geraldine Road, who died last week, would have been 89 years old next month. Son of Robert and Annie Kelly, Michael and his brother Bob and sisters Mary and Annie lost their father long before their mother Annie died at 91 years of age. All of this information I gleaned from an undated newspaper cutting following Mrs. Kelly’s death. Reference was made in the press report to the father of the Kelly family, Robert, who pre deceased his wife Annie ‘by a great many years.’ Rev. P. Crowe C.C. officiated Mrs. Kelly’s internment in St. Michael’s Cemetery which I believe puts her death somewhere around the late 1950s.
Unusually the Kelly grave does not give any details of the various family members, all of whom have now passed on, Michael being the last of the Kelly siblings. Michael was born in Convent Lane which leads from Duke Street to the Dominican Church and he obviously developed an attachment to the Dominicans which remained with him to the very end. He attended daily mass in the Dominican Church and I understand as a young man he sang in the Dominican choir.
The Kelly family were appointed tenants of 22 Geraldine Road in August 1938. The 25 houses in that housing scheme were completed by the local firm of D. & J. Carbery at a cost of £283 per house. These were the last Council houses to be constructed in Athy using Athy brick and Michael was the last surviving member of the original tenants appointed 70 years ago to the Geraldine Road houses.
Michael suffered from albinism but despite his handicap as a young man he involved himself in local community activities, as the photo of one of the musicals put on in the Town Hall in the 1940s confirms. Michael is pictured standing at the back wearing dark glasses between Eamon McCauley and J.J. Stafford. Can anyone remember the name of the show and the year it was put on in the Town Hall?
Michael attended the local Christian Brothers School and the friendships he formed in those days with Mick O’Shea, Jim Dargan and Kevin Watchorn were never forgotten. He liked to meet his friends for a drink and in his later years his favourite pub was McLoughlins in Leinster Street. Strange to relate that just a week or two before Michael died, a man with whom he was friendly in the 1940s also passed away. Fr. Patrick Dunne’s family came to Athy around 1940 when his father Harry was appointed a signal man in the local Railway Station. The Dunne family lived in Butler’s Row for a while before transferring to No. 6 Geraldine Road. Paddy Dunne completed his secondary education in Athy before entering the novitiate of the Holy Ghost Fathers to study for the priesthood. He was ordained on 10th July 1949 and celebrated his first Mass in the Convent of Mercy Chapel the following day. Fr. Patrick served in Nigeria for a number of years and died quite recently in Clonbullogue, Co. Offaly where he was Parish Priest.
At the funeral Mass for Mick Kelly Monsignor John Wilson spoke warmly of Mick’s neighbours who had been so kind to him throughout his life, and paid a particular tribute to his next door neighbours, the O’Rourke family. It was a well deserved acknowledgement of the many kindnesses shown to Mick over the years.
As I was returning from St. Michael’s Cemetery following Mick’s funeral I learned of the sudden passing of my old neighbour from Church Avenue, Peter Conlan. It would be difficult to find a more courteous and likeable man than ‘P’, as he was generally called. In his retirement he spent his leisure hours on his boat which occasionally for weeks on end over the winter months he moored just beyond my garden wall at Ardreigh. He was proud of his boat and was an encouraging advocate of the use of the inland waterways. So persuasive was he in this regard that only a few weeks ago he persuaded this land lubber to become a member of the Irish Inland Waterways Association. His enthusiasm for boats and waterways overcame my natural reluctance to spend hours of my time cruising along narrow canal waters and last year I joined him for a short trip in which he beguiled me with river and canal lore. He had arranged to take me on another trip to Vicarstown a few Saturdays ago, but as the day approached both of us realised it clashed with the Heineken Cup match involving Munster and Leinster. Postponed to another day the trip with ‘P’ will now never take place.
Mick Kelly was a distinctly recognisable part of the social background of Athy ever since my young days, while I first made ‘P’ Conlan’s acquaintance when I returned to Athy 27 years ago. We lived at either end of Church Avenue, neighbours and friends and his genial infectious good humour made him a man with whom it was always a pleasure to spend some time. The town of Athy will be the poorer for the loss of Mick Kelly and Peter Conlan.
Ar dhéis Dé go raibh a nanamacha.