Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Kathleen Coburn

During the week we buried Kathleen Coburn, who like myself was a child born during the war who grew up in Athy of the 1950s. We Offaly Street lads, two Kellys, two Moores, two Whites, two Cashs, one Webster and two Taaffes at different times were readily identifiable with the vibrant street where we lived and played. A short distance separated us from the fellows in Leinster Street, but we were poles apart insofar as our afterschool hours were concerned. The girls from either street were invisible to us, at least until we gradually recognised that football and stone throwing battles were not the only enjoyable youthful pastimes. For that reason, Kathleen Coburn and her friends, Maura Hyland, Reiltin Blanchfield, Lily McHugh and Maura Dooley, all of whom lived in close proximity to each other, either at the top of Leinster Street or in St. Michael’s Terrace, did not cross our human radar screens. The Blanchfield’s timber yard was the girl’s usual playground, with an occasional foray into the railway station end of the People’s Park. We Offaly Streeters played in the Sunderland side of the same park and seldom, if ever, ventured beyond the invisible boundary line which separated the two sections. It was much later that I first came across Kathleen who by then was working in the offices of that wonderful Athy man, Tadgh Brennan. Kathleen’s father Tommy Stynes died at a relatively young age. I remember his shop at 10 Leinster Street from where he carried on business as an undertaker and a hackney service man. Am I imagining things when I visualise petrol pumps outside his Leinster Street shop? And what is that I hear of a juke box in his shop, something which we Offaly Street lads, accustomed to Kitty Websters and Sylvesters, could never imagine. Kathleen’s parents, I am told, after marrying first lived in the Emily Row house where Tos Quinn now has his offices. That premises would later house the Solicitors practice of Tadgh Brennan, son of the old I.R.A. man and local District Court Clerk, Fintan Brennan. It was for Tadgh Brennan that the young Kathleen Stynes went to work. I am told that Kathleen was just passed her 14th birthday when she was given the job of bringing the letters from Tadgh’s office to the Post Office every evening. She was 17 years of age when she joined the secretarial staff and had served 61 years in that practice now owned by Tos Quinn when she sadly died. I first got to know Kathleen when I returned to Athy in 1982 and found her to be a person who was helpful, thoughtful and at all times generous of spirit. Her involvement in the Dominican choir extended back over many years, and her colleagues in the choir, augmented I believe by some of the parish choir members, paid a fitting musical goodbye at St. Michael’s Parish Church on the evening of the reception of her remains in the church and at the next day’s funeral mass. Casting my mind back to the 1950s and the near neighbours of the Stynes family in No. 10 Leinster Street I remember Kitty and Bridie McLoughlin. Their father James and his wife Agnes had a pub next to the Stynes’ and further on was located Ms. Blanchfields, then Ger and Lottie Moriarty. Next door to the Moriartys were Mattie and Kathy Murray and finally Tom Hyland and his wife Margaret. Across what was once the open space were Jim and Brigid Blanchfield, with a large family of 15 children. Sad to think all has now changed. The parents have passed away, as indeed have some of the children and those that remain are to be found in many cases far from their home town of Athy. Kathleen Coburn, who was predeceased by her husband Paddy, was one of six children of Tommy and Sheila Stynes and she is survived by her daughter Sandra, her son Padraig, her granddaughters Anna, Grace, Orlaith and her siblings Phil, Anthony, Kenneth, Pascal and Finbarr. Our sympathies are extended to the family, friends and colleagues of Kathleen Coburn.

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