Alice’s Big Birthday.
Our good friend and neighbour Alice Cullen celebrated a big birthday recently. Alice, one of the kindest and most genuine people I know, exactly like her late husband Bill was, had the X factor. A limousine collected here and her pals and brought them off to Citywest forlunch.
Billy Gobbet served on many handball committees over a long number of years – early eighties to the present time. Sometimes he was along side of me – sometimes he was not. For many years now he has been Treasurer of the Handball Development Committee that is an onerous job in itself. He succeeded Margaret Pearse who did many years of good work in that position. Billy was a key figure on the committee that built the 40 by 20 alley.
Billy visited me in Naas Hospital. When he called I was out on manoeuvres/walking. He suggested I make a low-profile handball comeback. I explained that at the time I was still a bit wobbly on my feet.
Despite taking a sabbatical in Spain and Portugal Rose B. O’Donoghue promised to visit me in hospital. On July 27 I left Naas Hospital for Dun Laoghaire Rehab. I did not have a number to contact Rose. I believe Rose visited Naas Hospital two days later - I was gone! Having spent many years working with the Leinster Leader Rose felt it was time to take a break and look at her life; after holidays in Spain and Portugal, Rose returned to Ireland and now works for the new paper “The Voice” (which has three editions The Naas Voice, The Kildare Voice and Liffey Voice).
Rita O’Rourke and her daughter Olive Hilliard were out driving in Olive’s car. One said to the other “we’ll visit Matt”. Only problem was Matt was many miles away in the Dun Laoghaire Rehab. They visited Matt anyway and he was delighted to see them. They met him at Ground Zero of the Rehab and brought him up to date with Ballymore-Eustace happenings.
Angela Ennis, who was a former work colleague, lives in Cabinteely that is close to Dun Laoghaire. Despite that I did not expect her to visit me. Accordingly, when Angela did visit me I enjoyed her visit all the better.
There I was lying in my hospital bed when I looked up and saw a familiar figure. It was Bobbie Grattan visiting me in Dun Laoghaire Rehab. Seeing so many faces Bobbie was slightly disoriented so I had the advantage on him. I bid Bobbie the time of day and the pair of us had a good chat before Bobbie departed again.
Handballers Go Leor!
Another well-known handballer to visit me in Dun Laoghaire was Billy Doran. 1957 was a great year for Billy when he won the two All-Ireland Junior Hardball titles partnered by Seamie Curran in the Doubles. Billy and Seamie also contested the Junior Softball Doubles final against Limerick’s outstanding players Tom McGarry and Martin Mullins who won the Senior Doubles title for the next two years. Billy met my brother James and myself on Ground Zero at Dun Laoghaire.
Tallaght Town Centre
When the Tallaght Town Centre opened I did not visit it for at least two years. In 1994 Dublin County Council was split into three sections and I went to South Dublin County Council. In the process, I moved from the City Centre to Tallaght Town Centre. Thereafter I visited Tallaght Town Centre on a daily basis usually buying my clothes there. Tony Buckley promised to bring me to where ever I wanted to go so we went to the Tallaght Town Centre to do some shopping. While there we met Nuala Byrne (nee Cowley) who gave me a warm welcome. Nuala used to work in Janet’s where I often met her but more recently she has been helping with some of her grandchildren. On March 14 next her husband Tommy will be nine years dead.
My Heaphy ancestors lived in The Commons, Co. Tipperary. Over the last number of years I have visited The Commons several times. In the process I have got to know Michael and Annie Heaphy and their daughter Eileen. The Heaphys play a prominent part in the life of The Commons. Eileen plays a key role in the production of the villages annual Journal which Eileen sends to me. As far as I know these are the only Heaphys now in The Commons. Are they relations of mine – I do not know. One elderly man, now deceased, thought all the Heaphys in the area were related.
Eileen tells me Tommy Kavanagh, her next-door neighbour and great friend, passed away on May 9th and that they are still heartbroken. To them Tommy was a family member and said that Eileen was like a sister to him. He was always there since Eileen was born and he was the best neighbour in the world. When my New Zealand relations, Val Wood (nee Heaphy) and her sons Simon and Nick, visited The Commons in 1989 Tommy’s mother was still alive but she too has died since. Val’s husband Colin was also with her on that trip.
My relation and friend on the Heaphy side, Margaret Rodney, celebrated her 100th birthday on May 13. At the time I was unaware of what was going on around me but, prior to my stroke, we had spoken of her birthday on a number of occasions. Her sister Kate Bahr died in December 2005 aged 93 having been an invalid for 10 years. Kate’s husband Vic lovingly looked after Kate during those 10 years and is still alive. Margaret’s brother Philip died in August 2003 aged 88 while her sister May Keane died in September 2001 aged 97.
Former Kildare Chief State Solicitor, Charlie Coonan, paid me a visit in Ballymore-Eustace on Saturday December 1, 2007. Apparently he tried to visit me in Intensive Care Naas but was not allowed to do so.
Michael Coleman paid me a visit in Naas Hospital on his way to a venue in the midlands. Since getting home Michael has emailed me. Michael’s visit was unique in that he worked on the administration side for South Dublin County Council but often joined me at our “elevens”.
I read with interest Bill Lawlor’s handball letter in the December issue of the Bugle. At 87 years of age, Bill is the doyen of our most successful players. In 1953 he made history when he became the first Ballymore-Eustace player to win the two All-Ireland Junior Hardball titles. At the time it was very difficult to win even one title. By winning the two titles, Bill won a third of all hardball titles then available to handballers. Paddy Monaghan partnered Bill in his Doubles success. Bill’s handball career came to an abrupt end when he suffered a broken leg. After his career in handball Bill made a success of dog racing both as a trainer and owner.
In the seventies I went to a film on the life of Johnny Cash. The film contained many songs by Johnny one of which kept going around my head. I learnt that the song was called “Big Foot” but I never heard it again until recently. I can thank my nephew Philip and the modern wonders of computers for this experience.
I was very sorry to see that Arthur O’Neill of Brannockstown had died on December 11 at St Vincent’s Hospital, Athy after a long illness. Arthur was pre-deceased by his wife the late Anna and is survived by his five sons and four daughters. His sister Sadie, daughter-in-law, sons-in-law and grandchildren also survive him. Arthur was a thorough gentleman who never failed to ask about my late father when he was unwell and Arthur and I met.
© Matt Purcell (January 2008)