The death of a young man, especially someone leaving behind a wife and a young son, is a sad event and a family tragedy. Last week Wayne O’Neill, a young man from Clogh, Co. Kilkenny tragically lost his life in a road traffic accident on the Athy/Castlecomer Road near Crettyard.
The Irish tradition of community wide involvement in funerals, unlike the custom in other countries, is a wonderful throwback to a time when family difficulties brought together neighbours and friends in a concerted effort to help the family in need. The community in action brings with it comfort and solace in time of grief and nowhere was this better exemplified than in the funeral of the young Clogh native, Wayne O’Neill.
I journeyed down to the North Kilkenny village and for the first time visited the Church built a few years after the passing of Catholic Emancipation. It stands proud at the end of a lengthy avenue; a simple country Church surrounded on several sides by the last resting place of parishioners of past generations. A typically Irish scene developed as the congregation gathered favouring the back of the Church while a few seats on the Gospel side of the nave remained largely unused. The parish choir presented what was for me a unique composition in that the vast majority of its members were male. Usually parish choirs owe much of their musicality and talent to the presence of female singers but here in Clogh the reverse was true. What was equally surprising was the advanced age of the choir members who despite this or perhaps because of their years, offered pleasantly harmonious renditions of various hymns during the funeral Mass. Their singing was excellent and added enormously to the dignity of the occasion.
I gather that the Parish of Clogh, which includes Moneenroe, was created a Parish separate from the Parish of Castlecomer around the time the Church of St. Patrick’s was built in Clogh. The Parish now has two Churches as the local miners helped build another Church at Moneenroe, which was consecreted in 1930 as the Church of the Sacred Heart. I believe it was in that latter Church that Bishop Collier preached against the miners and the Miners Union started by the great Nixie Boran, an old IRA man and convicted communist after he returned from a visit to Russia in 1930. The union was officially launched in December 1930 in Moneenroe in the Parish of Clogh, which is in the heart of the Kilkenny mining district. Not too far away is the site of the Coolbawn ambush where two IRA men John Hartley and Nicholas Mullins were killed on the 14th of June 1921.
These were the historical connections that I made as I exited from the Parish Church in Clogh to follow the funeral cortege on its last journey to St. Michael’s Cemetery here in Athy. I was thinking also of the many links between the Counties of Kilkenny and Kildare which were brought into sharp focus by the Clogh Parish Priest Fr. Tobin at the end of his Mass, as he described for us the funeral journey from the “Black and Amber County to the Lilywhite County.” I could not but smile reflecting on my own life journey which commenced in nearby Castlecomer and came to rest in the County Kildare town of Athy where the young Kilkenny man, Wayne O’Neill, would soon lie in his young wife’s family grave.
The funeral prayers at the end of the burial ceremony concluded with the release of four balloons bearing the black and amber colours of Wayne’s beloved Kilkenny. It was a telling gesture for and from a Kilkenny community which had witnessed the loss of one of it’s members and his relocation in death in the adjoining short grass county.
Our sympathy goes to the families of the late Wayne O’Neill and at this sad time we especially remember our work colleague Lisa Walsh and her young son Cian.
At 7.30 p.m. on Saturday the 4th of February an important meeting will be held in the local GAA Clubhouse to announce plans for the future development of the playing facilities enjoyed by members of Athy Gaelic Football Club. The Club officials have extended an invitation to past and present members to attend the meeting which non-members with an interest in Gaelic games are also very welcome to attend.