This week saw the passing of Michael O’Keeffe and Des Noonan, two local men whose funerals were attended by friends and neighbours on their final journey to St. Michael’s cemetery. Funerals, like weddings, bring old friends and family relations together from far and near. Those two occasions act as great gathering events, especially funerals when one’s attendance is decided by friendship, respect or family connection rather than by formal invitation. I was reminded of this early this week when attending the funeral of Des Noonan who for many years was proprietor of a public house in Leinster Street.
Des, who retired several years ago, was a former pupil of the Christian Brothers School in Athy and amongst the many individuals who attended the funeral were some of his former school mates. All of those former Christian Brothers boys are now in their 80s but the friendly solidarity engendered by years of shared school experiences was clear to be seen.
I got talking to those scholars of the past who included my own brothers Jack and Tony, both of whom had travelled some distance to pay respect to Des. Another who had made a journey of some distance was Mick McAuley who told me his family sold their pub in Leinster Street to Bobby Flood in 1947 before the McAuley family moved to Kilkenny city. Mick was a classmate of Des Noonan, but left Athy before what remained of his class went into Leaving Cert. There was only one student left by the time Des Noonan entered the Leaving Cert class in 1948. He was the only Leaving Cert pupil that year. His teachers were Brother Nelson, known as ‘Breezy’, Brother Brennan who went by the name of ‘Luther’, but never addressed as such within his hearing range and the two lay teachers Liam Ryan and Pat Spillane.
Joe May, Denis Smyth, Jimmy Kelly and Rickie Kelly were students in the Christian Brothers School around the same time and they also attended the funeral of their former school mate. Both Joe and Jimmy, together with Mick McAuley, featured on the 1946 Christian Brothers school team which played Mullingar in the final of the Leinster Schools competition of that year. Even with the passing of 69 years memories were still fresh of the final played in Geraldine Park and refereed by local man, ‘Chevit’ Doyle. The Athy Christian Brothers team lost that day and seven decades later the referee is still being blamed for not allowing a score by the local team which might have swung the match in favour of the youngsters from Athy.
The photograph which accompanies this Eye is that of the team of 1946 and shows the late Des Noonan as a young fellow of 16 years of age with his school mates. Those photographed have been identified as follows:
Br. V.S. Nelson (‘Breezy’), Charlie Kelly, Tommy Egan, Jimmy Kelly, Noel Bergin, Eddie Conway, Finbar Hayden.
Tommy Keyes, Joe May, Paddy Whelan, Mick McAuley, Paddy Harrington, Peadar Dooley, Jackie Doyle.
George (Mossy) Reilly, Des Noonan, Fintan Gibbons, Pascal Myles, Liam O’Keeffe.
With the passing of Michael O’Keeffe and Des Noonan another chapter closes in the life of Athy but the memories live on. Sympathy is extended to the families of Michael and Des on the deaths of two fine men.