Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Jimmy Kelly and Paddence Murphy

The recent death of Jimmy Kelly of Chanterlands marked another milestone in the passage of time and the reactivation of memories first gathered during youthful days in Offaly Street. Jimmy was the second son of County Mayo born Garda James Kelly and his Kerry born wife Marie. He was a child of the early 1930s who spent his entire working life in Athy. No more than myself his attachment to the south Kildare town was the result of his father’s transfer to Athy early in his Garda career. For Jimmy his schooling in the local Christian Brothers school and the strong work ethic which he displayed throughout his adult working life were the foundations of his honourable approach to life. He had huge regard and respect for his workmates in the Wallboard factory where he worked during the entire period of that factory’s existence. He shared in the disappointment of his colleagues when the innovative industrial venture first mooted in the pre-World War two years closed down in 1977. The Wallboard company was formed in 1939 but due to the outbreak of World War two the machinery needed to open the factory could not be imported. The factory finally opened in April 1949 only to close 28 years later. Jimmy had treasured memories of his Wallboard colleagues and was always anxious for their role in the industrial life of Athy to be recorded. He knew Athy and his own generation with a knowledge which generously interposed reality and myth and gave to his memories of times past a feeling of nostalgia which we all share. In truth life in Athy of the 1940s and the 1950s was difficult for many families. However, as we look back with the passage of time those difficulties once experienced in youth are sidelined and give way to recollections of happier times. Jimmy was a man who over the years shared many memories with me, but always on the understanding that his name was never to be mentioned. Not that those memories were anything but good and complimentary of the persons and events mentioned. For Jimmy never sought the limelight and would never countenance his name being interposed in the accounts which I frequently wrote about after another friendly chat with the man from Offaly Street. That was the street where the Kellys, the Moores, the Whites, the Websters, the Cashs and the Taaffes of my generation were reared. Jimmy was of an older group of sons who were already part of the local employment force when we younger ones were still playing cowboys and indians in the People’s Park. Paddens Murphy, another Offaly Street man, was of that older generation and in the week that Jimmy Kelly died Paddens Murphy and his colleagues in the Sorrento dance band were honoured with the unveiling of a plaque on the Town Hall. I was in England for the past while and missed Jimmy’s funeral and the plaque unveiling ceremony. I would certainly have liked to have been present for both to mark my respect for the two former residents of Offaly Street. I found it strange to read of the Sorrento band being described as a showband. In the 1940s and the 1950s the musical combinations of the time were either orchestras or bands and even though the Sorrento under Paddens Murphy opened Dreamland with Victor Sylvester, I believe it was always known as Paddens Murphy’s Sorrento dance band. I had hoped that the plaque would be put on the wall of what remains of the Murphy’s house at No. 24 Offaly Street. That for an Offaly Street fellow would I felt be the most appropriate place for such an honour. However, the unveiling of the plaque to the Sorrento band was a remarkable tribute, not just to Paddens Murphy but also to the many local musicians who over the years were part of the Sorrento story. A week in which my old street lost one of its old boys and also saw another old boy honoured is a week tinged with sadness and pride. Memories of times past gives all of us an opportunity to reflect on the passing years and to understand and appreciate the people whose lives touched ours. Jimmy Kelly and Paddens Murphy were part of that past as was Mrs. Maureen Rigney who died within the last week. My sympathies go to the families of Jimmy Kelly and Mrs. Rigney and my regrets to the extended family of Paddens Murphy for missing what was a great occasion and the opportunity to meet old neighbours when they attended the plaque unveiling ceremony at the Town Hall last week.

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