Danny Kane and Mary Fleming came from a similar rural background in South Kildare. Danny was from Oldgrange, while Mary was from the nearby townland of Fontstown. In age they were a generation apart but both passed away within weeks of each other. Mary was an extremely devout person whose commitment to her church never waivered, while Danny’s work ethic was an essential part of his approach to life.
Mary left Ireland as a young girl in 1937 at the height of the economic war. She would spend the next 67 years of her life in England where she qualified as a nurse and midwife. Even in retirement she continued working as a health visitor in Northampton, near to the home place of the great English poet John Clare. She was however never lost to Ireland or to the extended Fleming family and she returned to Athy 12 years ago. Here in Athy she renewed her commitment to the local parish in the same way as she had committed herself as a volunteer in her UK parish over many years.
Danny Kane, who was one of the most agreeable persons one could meet, left school like so many of his peers at an early age. His lack of formal education did not in any way impinge on his ability to relate to people and he enjoyed an excellent relationship with everyone as he passed through life. While working on local farms at an early age he developed an extraordinary work ethic which he maintained all his life.
In or about 1971 Danny purchased a small grocery shop at 32 Woodstock Street. I am told that the enterprising young man from Oldgrange found that the mortgage repayments exceeded his income and so with friends Syl Bell and Eddie Ryan he purchased a chip van. Travelling to various functions in the area selling chips proved profitable and prompted Danny to open a chipper in part of the existing grocery shop in Woodstock Street. In time Danny gave over the entire premises to the fish and chip business and it flourished while Danny was the proprietor before selling it on in 1998.
Legion are the stories I have heard of Danny’s thoughtfulness and generosity during his time as the shop proprietor in Woodstock Street. It was the same spirit and thoughtfulness which saw him working later in his life as a volunteer driver for the Cancer Society. After retiring from the business he had built up over 26 years Danny worked for a time as a driver for his brother-in-law Fergal Blanchfield. This was followed by a spell as a driver with local hardware firm Griffin Hawe Ltd. and later as a taxi driver for Vals Cabs and Ernest O’Rourke-Glynn.
Sadly in more recent years Danny was troubled by a heart complaint brought on unquestionably by a life of hard work and long hours. He was scheduled to have heart surgery for some time past but health cutbacks caused the operation to be postponed several times. When at last the call came it was via a text message while Danny was attending 12 mass at St. Michael’s Parish Church. He was admitted to St. James’s Hospital the following morning but tragically following a 14 hour operation died shortly after being transferred to the intensive care unit.
Danny is survived by his wife Fidelma who on their marriage in 1972 brought together two families, Kanes and Blanchfields, who are long associated with this part of the county of Kildare. Fidelma and their 8 adult children have lost a wonderful caring husband and father and a man for whom the local community came out in their hundreds to honour on the occasion of his funeral.
The contrasting lifestyles of both Danny Kane and Mary Fleming, both from rural backgrounds, were founded on commitment, one to the church, the other to the family. Mary, who remained single throughout her whole life, found contentment and purpose in the Catholic Church and in her later years on returning to Ireland found great happiness with the extended family members, young and old, with whom she spent her final days. Danny found great happiness in his family life and the life stories of Danny and Mary while different in so many ways show that their passages through life were marked by dedicated commitment to life’s true values. Our sympathies go to the families and friends of Mary Fleming and Danny Kane.