On Easter Sunday we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the dedication and opening of St. Michael’s Parish Church. On Easter Monday we gathered in the same church to remember Pat Daly of Prussellstown. Pat, who was from Mount Collins in County Limerick, came to Athy 54 years ago as a young man just out of school to start work in the Wallboard factory. It was 19th September 1960 when the young Limerick man, together with George Robinson of Pairc Bhride, joined the Wallboard Laboratory staff under Jim Flanagan of Church Road. Pat was to remain there for a number of years before joining the Asbestos cement factory in Athy.
The opening of St. Michael’s Church on 19th April 1964 was a historic event and no doubt both Pat Daly and George Robinson like myself took part in the celebrations on that occasion. The ceremonies that day began with the Archbishop of Dublin inspecting a guard of honour of F.C.A. personnel while the band of the Curragh Training Command under Capt. Mellerick sounded a salute. The Archbishop was escorted by Comdt. Jim O’Doherty and Captain P. Dooley, both from Athy. When blessing, firstly the exterior of the new church and secondly the church’s interior, Dr. McQuaid was accompanied by the Parish Priest Fr. Vincent Steen and the local curates Fr. Frank Mitchell, Fr. Joe Corbett and Fr. Philip Dennehy. The mass which followed was celebrated by Fr. Steen during which the church choir augmented for the day by members of the South Kildare Musical Society gave a wonderful rendition of Handel’s Hallelujah chorus.
George Robinson, now retired and living in County Roscommon, still retains a great affinity for his home town of Athy and like Pat Daly followed Kildare football with a passion. Pat and George were always to be seen wherever the shortgrass County played, whether championship, league or friendly games. Indeed neither missed a county team game no matter where played.
For Pat, a Limerick man by birth, Kildare football held an abiding interest buttressed no doubt by his long standing connection with Athy Gaelic Football Club. For almost 20 years Pat served as secretary of the local club and at other times as a senior team selector and committee member. He was, as described by his son at the funeral mass on Easter Monday, a traditionalist, but if I may venture, a traditionalist in the best sense of the word. For Pat the administrative duties of club secretary meant that the club records were properly maintained, ticket sales properly accounted for and everything else done properly to ensure the continued viability of the south Kildare club. His administrative abilities were also brought to bear on the Club Kildare annual draw, with Pat pushing the sales with admirable persuasive skills. Indeed it was virtually impossible to refuse anything of the modest Limerick man.
As George Robinson and myself walked behind the hearse on its way to St. Michael’s Cemetery we recalled the number of times we retraced the same steps on similar previous journeys. George who worked with Pat so many years ago kept up contact with his former work colleague. Their common interest was Gaelic football and especially the Kildare county teams. Neither man ever despaired of the relentless yet so far unsuccessful attempts by the County Seniors to annex the Sam Maguire cup. For both Pat and George it was an unstated belief that Kildare’s opportunity would come in time.
The guard of honour provided for Pat’s funeral cortege by members of Athy G.F.C. spoke volumes for the high esteem in which the club’s former secretary was held by all and sundry. Pat was a man whose unobtrusive yet determined approach to his work as Club Secretary was valued by his peers. The large attendance at his funeral represented different stages of his career and included former work colleagues from the Wallboard factory, many who worked with him in the Asbestos factory and members and former members of Athy Gaelic Football Club as well as friends and acquaintenances both past and present. To his wife Pattie, who herself over the years played a prominent role in the development of Athy Community Council and Athy’s Alternative Project , and to Pat’s children go our sympathies on his sad passing.
On Tuesday 6th May at 7.00 p.m. there will be an illustrated talk in Athy’s Library on the folklore collection compiled by pupils of local national schools in 1937/38. The schools involved were Skerries, Churchtown, Athy C.B.S. and Mercy Convent, Kilberry and Levitstown. In next week’s article I will give the names of the young pupils who contributed to the folklore collection which is now held in U.C.D. The talk will be a wonderful opportunity for former pupils and their families to revisit and recover a time which may have long gone from memory.