Sunday, March 25, 2007

Matt’s Column

Surprised 80th Birthday Party

Kevin Keenan’s family organized a surprise 80th birthday party for Kevin in the Thatch as mentioned in the last edition of the Bugle. A chance meeting with Kevin a couple of months ago resulted in me receiving an invitation to this special family occasion.

Kevin’s former neighbours in Kennycourt, Owen and Carmel McDermott, were among the first to arrive. Peter “Mac” Sully was another former Kennycourt neighbour to attend. Kevin’s former Barrack Street neighbours, Alice Cullen and Margaret Dowling, were also present as were Bridget Clarke (Hillcrest), Paul and Claire O’Kelly, Bernie Toomey, Mary Hanlon and Paul and Ann Murphy. Tom and Phyllis Cregg shared a table with the McDermotts and me and later in the proceedings Tom entertained us with a number of songs.

Others in attendance that I met were Eugene and Joan Gilroy, Kevin’s Bishopland neighbours - Tony Hannon and Tom and Jacinta O’Rourke. I was surprised to meet Avril Mullins. Avril joined South Dublin County Council’s Law Department as a Senior Solicitor shortly after I retired from that Department. It transpired Avril is one of Tricia’s longtime friends.

Naturally Kevin’s wife Ena and their children Tom, Anne, Theresa, Kevin, Tricia and Bernie were all present along with their extended families. Sadly, their eldest daughter Marie died in1991. No doubt Marie and Theresa’s late husband Tom Nugent were very much in their families’ thoughts on this occasion. Also present were Kevin’s sister Sheila - and her husband Hugh Peacocke - and his brother Jim who was home from England.

The highlight of the night came when Kevin himself spoke and thanked everyone for attending. He also credited me with setting the ball rolling regarding the celebrations. Another highlight came when his grandchildren Niamh, Maria and Ruby serenaded Kevin with “Happy Birthday to You”. Those attending were served with a lovely meal. This party was a well deserved tribute to a hardworking family man to whom I wish all the best for the future.

Thank You

I would like to thank Ena Nugent, Margaret Dowling and Tom and Jacinta O’Rourke for their help in preparing the item on Kevin’s 80th.

A Harvest of Memories

It was a wet, wet night but there was a book launch to attend. In fact, it was the first book launch I had the honour of attending. While I knew it was in the Kilcullen Theatre I did not know where exactly that was. Arriving in Kilcullen, I headed for the road going towards the Curragh and stopped where I saw a good few cars parked. On making enquiries, I learned that the Theatre was on the Main Street beyond the Liffey Bridge. When I called into a shop to make further enquiries, I discovered I had gone past the Theatre. Interestingly, a lady in the shop asked if the book was on sale there and I was able to inform her that the launch was about to take place and that everyone was welcome to attend. Eventually, I found the Theatre and saw the lady, who I had told about the launch, there.

As I arrived before the appointed starting time there were only a few people present. Initially, I was the only one from the Ballymore area in attendance. A short time later Rose B. O’Donoghue and Michael Ward arrived. Rose introduced me to Noel and Frances Clare who were there with their son Stephen. Frances has been printing the Bugle for us for many years now. Subsequently, I introduced myself to the author, Dick Jeffers, and congratulated him on his achievement in having his book published. While chatting to Rose she excused herself to go over and talk to Bernard Berney who recently produced the play “Kindly Keep It Covered”, which Rose declared was “only brilliant”.

About then, the formal proceedings of the night began with a full house in attendance. Noel Clare was the MC and he introduced our main speaker on the night who was none other than our own Rose. Following Rose’s speech Dick himself spoke. Dick paid tribute to Michael Ward and Pastor Dunlop for the encouragement they gave him. He also complimented the man who did the art work for his book but whose name eludes me. The launch concluded with Dick reading a couple of extracts from his book. After the formalities of the launch were completed I got talking to my (by now) old friend, John Brady, of Brannockstown. As the launch actually took place in the lovely Heritage Centre John showed me around some of the exhibits. Following that he also showed me around the very fine Theatre. Then John and I got talking to Bernard Berney who I discovered had shared a brief period of time with me in 1956 when we were both students in Naas CBS Secondary School. Before the proceedings ended, Rose introduced me to fellow Bugle contributor, Angie Thompson, and her husband Noel. Finally, I got chatting briefly to Dick’s wife Trudie.

So what about Dick’s book? As one who grew up in the country, much of what Dick wrote about was familiar territory to me. That said, Dick obviously possessed a depth of knowledge of his subject that I would not possess and so I found his book informative. I particularly liked the title “A Harvest of Memories” Dick chose for his book. All in all, Dick’s book maintained my interest throughout and his achievement in publishing it at 80 years is a source of inspiration to the rest of us who do the bit of writing.

Neighbour’s Fire

This year’s Christmas period has been a black time for fatal house fires with three people losing their lives in fires on the Curragh. My story has a happier outcome but so easily it could have been otherwise. On the stormy night that was December 13/14 I was awakened in my Churchtown home at 4 am by the sound of a fire brigade siren. Looking out my window I saw a blazing house fire in Braemor Grove, which is just to the front of my house. It took over an hour for the fire brigade to bring the fire under control. This fire brought back memories of a fire I witnessed in the early sixties in Baggot Street in which a man - living on the fourth floor of a house on the opposite side of the street to where I was living then - lost his life. Watching the recent fire I took consolation from the fact that it was not accompanied by the same measure of hysteria and panic as was the case in the earlier fire. The following morning I learned that Miss Daly, the elderly single lady who lived in the house on her own, had managed to escape before the fire took hold. Her next door neighbours raised the alarm when they heard her smoke alarm going off. The house was totally gutted with the roof completely gone. I understand my neighbour suffered some smoke inhalation and spent sometime in hospital.

Life’s Downs and Ups

While my sister Margaret’s husband, Maurice Perry, was in his hospital bed in Cork recovering from a hip replacement operation their daughter, Maria King, was being conferred on December 15 with her H. Dip which enables her to teach in Secondary Schools. With the full support of her extended family, Maria took up this course a few years ago as a mature student and worked hard to achieve this happy outcome. This was a proud moment for Maria, her husband Michael, their children Darragh and Aisling and her mother Margaret. After the conferring the family headed into the hospital to enable Maurice to share in the celebrations. Maria’s father-in-law Sean King is a brother of the late Frank King who as the dynamic Chairman of the Kerry County Board played such an important part in the successes of the great Kerry football teams of the seventies. Since her conferring Maria has been teaching in the local school in Cobh where she herself went to school.

More Good News

My brother James’ eldest daughter Ann-Marie Purcell was recently conferred in the University of Ulster with her Master’s Degree in Applied Psychology.
James and his wife Marie attended the conferring which was held in Jordanstown, Belfast on December18. Following the conferring they stayed overnight in Belfast and the following day Ann-Marie brought them on a bus tour of the city before returning home to Dublin.

January’s Birthday Boys

First there was Greg Lawler who clocks in at a mere 58. Then there was yours truly followed by Tony Evans who can both lay claims to 64 years – an age made famous in song by our contemporary, former Beatle, Paul McCarthy. Somehow or another, 64 does not seem so ancient anymore!! In days gone by Tony and I had many a lively athletic sprinting contest in which Tony usually came out on top. On one glorious occasion at a Sports in Quinn’s Field in Coughlanstown I managed to narrowly beat Tony in both the 100 and 220 yards sprints. In fairness to Tony, he had to concede a small handicap to me in both events.

Retirement Presentation

Pat Hipwell of Moone received a presentation on December 22 to mark his retirement from his job with the local school in Moone. Pat has been a mainstay of handball in Moone and at County Board level since the fifties. For many years he and Paddy Monaghan worked closely together in the promotion of handball in County Kildare and Pat contributed handball notes to the Leinster Leader. I wish Pat many years of happy retirement and I wish himself and his wife Maureen many years of good health. Over the Christmas, Paddy Monaghan was in respite care in the Larchfield Park Nursing Home where Nancy Clarke is also spending sometime.


Nora Ryan (nee Keogh) aged 92 of Mullacash, Two-Mile-House died on November 30 at St Vincent’s Hospital, Athy R.I.P. Her husband William predeceased Nora. The late Nora, being originally a Keogh, had a cure for shingles. To her daughter Meta, son-in-law Kevin, grandchildren, great grandchildren, sister-in-law Ann, nephews - Tim, Willie and Michael, nieces and extended family I offer my sincere sympathy.

Desmond G. MacMahon of Bray, County Wicklow died on November 30 at the Blackrock Hospice R.I.P. Des was in his early eighties and had worked as an engineer for the ESB. His widow Vera is a sister of my sister-in-law, Joan – my brother Dan’s widow. His wife Vera, sister Madeleine, sisters-in-law, brothers-in-law, nieces and nephews survive Des.

Francis G. Keane of Sutton, Dublin died on December 10 at the Mater Private Nursing Home R.I.P. Frank was the Dublin County Solicitor from August 1971 to January, 1976 and as such was my boss at that time. Afterwards Frank went on promotion to the Chief State Solicitors Office. During his time in the Council’s Law Department he carried out much needed reforms in the Department. Additionally, he identified problems requiring attention and systematically set about solving those problems. Frank was a good golfer and was the President of the Portmarnock Golf Club. On a number of occasions, I met Frank at All-Ireland handball finals in Croke Park. His wife Rose, children – Frank, Annmarie, Brenda and Barry, son-in-law Michael, daughters-in-law Sylvia and Danielle, grandchildren, brothers, sisters and extended family survive Frank.

Michael McCloskey of Landscape Gardens, Churchtown, Dublin died on December 27 at Our Lady’s Hospice, Harold’s Cross R.I.P. Michael was one of my Dublin neighbours and a leading figure in Dublin handball for many years. He worked with the ESB before his retirement and was predeceased by his wife Eileen and son Cormac. His son, Enda was a successful Dublin handball player who achieved success at All-Ireland level. The last time I met Michael some months ago at the Spawell Complex he told me he was receiving treatment for a recurrence of cancer for which he had already undergone a major operation. His sons – Brian, Rory, Enda and Kevin, daughters-in-law, grandchildren, brother Pairic, sisters Mary and Brenda, and his extended family survive Michael.

Annie Cunningham (nee Finnegan) died on December 30 at the Waterford Regional Hospital R.I.P. Annie and her late husband Michael had a Fish and Chip Shop at the top of the Main Street in Tramore. These premises were well known to visitors to the seaside town and locals alike. In the fifties and sixties when our family were regular visitors to Tramore our last port of call each night was to Cunningham’s Chipper. Those exiting the Rex Cinema – which is now no more - and the local pubs usually paid a visit to Cunninghams as part of their nightly ritual. Annie must surely have been in her nineties. Her husband Michael died many years ago. A few years ago, for old time sake I paid Cunninghams a visit. Miceal decided to bring out his mother to me to see if she would remember me and she did so immediately. That was the last time I met Annie. Her sons - John, Miceal and Padraig, daughter-in-law, grandchildren, great grandchildren and extended family survive Annie.

© Matt Purcell (2007)

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