LONG ROAD, MANY TURNINGS. “Every journey has to start somewhere. For now, this one starts here…”
Long Road, Many Turnings is a family saga spanning four generations. It is the book for anyone who ever wanted to trace their ancestry and discover how their family really lived throughout the first half of the 20th Century.
Although a work of fiction, Celtic author Mary has retold her own family story, achieving a mixture of drama, humour and historical events. Exploring scandal, heartbreak and danger through interrelated characters-including Roisin and Deirdre in 1907- to Ellen and Agnes in 1951.
Starting with two chapters focussed on the Drimoleague area of West Cork the reader experiences life across Ireland, both north and south, London and Wales. Chapters include the second world war, with storylines focussing on two different aspects – childhood evacuation to Wales and lorry driving for the Americans in Northern Ireland. These illustrate war’s unexpected impact on everyday life.
There are also chapters depicting the post and the inter-war years, times which had their own challenges. Each character’s story intriguingly slips into the background of the next thus readers are constantly provided with fresh themes and new characters. The writing is entertaining, touching on gender and cultural misunderstandings alongside a fast-moving storyline. It is accessible, friendly and down-to-earth.
Having published extensively during her nursing career and being a regular contributor to a range of professional journals, MARY MCCLAREY is now turning her hand to fiction. Long Road, Many Turnings is influenced by her experiences, both professionally as a nurse and midwife and personally as part of an Irish-Welsh family.
The Author with West Cork roots: – Mary’s earliest memories are of her grandmother, Kitty Cahalane, who grew up on a farm at Drinagh, just outside Drimoleague. Many times, she listened to her granny’s stories about running home from school barefoot, to a lighted candle in her mother’s window. The words Dunmanway, Bantry and Skibbereen peppered her grandmother’s reminiscences and to Mary they evoked a sense of heritage and mystery. When she visited Drimoleague with her parents and siblings as a teenager she immediately felt a strong connection with the area and as an adult she brought her mother back to visit. Mary now returns annually and delights in exploring the local area and meeting up with her cousins who live in Drimoleague.
The Fish Publishing Company which runs the Bantry Literary Festival awarded Mary Second Prize in their Flash Fiction category in 2020. She is currently writing her third fictional novel, set in 1900, whose central character is loosely based on another Drimoleague member of her grandmother’s family.
The Angel of Death has been abroad throughout the land; you may almost hear the beating of his wings.
These words from John Bright came to mind this week when we heard of the death of Margaret Ryan, née Hegarty, of North Street, Skibbereen.
Having been taken ill only a week earlier, Margaret’s death on 4 April came as a great shock to her realtives and to her many friends in Skibbereen. In particular, those who worked closely with Margaret in the Skibbereen Geriatric Society, the Legion of Mary and the Children of Mary will mourn the loss of a dear friend whose work in these organisations was quite extraordinary.
A daily Mass-goer, Margaret was a very religious woman. For many years she and a small group of people helped to dress the altar and ready St Patrick’s Cathedral for ceremonies, big and small.
A native of Caheragh, it was a good day for Skibbereen when in the late 1940s Margaret moved to the town to live with her aunt while attending the Technical School for her secondary education. She was a good pupil and in 1951 Margaret won first prize in Ireland in the domestic economy group certificate examination which was conducted through Irish.
When she finished her secondary education, Margaret took up employment in the front office at the Southern Star and worked there until she married Seamus Ryan on 4 April 1964.
Margaret was an accomplished actor and took part in many productions staged by the Cathedral Players, Skibbereen, in the late 1950s and early 1960s. When not on stage, Margaret was involved back-stage doing make-up, organising sets and doing the other countless things that go into making a successful production. For many years Margaret and her dear friend Anna McCarthy did make-up and organised back-stage for the Cathedral Players and the De La Salle PPU pantomimes.
In the Cathedral Players’ 1958 production of ‘Still Running’ by M.J. McKeown, Margaret played the character of Ellen Anne. At the West Cork Drama Festival in Rossmore the production won several awards, including Rev. Fr Tim O’Donovan, best producer, and Florence Lynch was best actor.
In February 1959 the Cathedral Players staged Lennox Robinson’s ‘Drama at Inish’ at the Cork Drama Festival, with Margaret Hegarty again among the cast. Interestingly, the Skibbereen performances were held in the Emmet Hall in those years because the Town Hall had been destroyed by fire on 15 August 1955 and the new Town Hall didn’t open until 1960.
In 1962 Margaret was again a member of the cast in the Players’ production of Charlotte Hasting’s play ‘Bonaventure’.
Margaret and Seamus Ryan were very involved in the productions of the De La Salle PPU pantomimes which were staged in the Town Hall from 1963 to 1985, Seamus even wrote the scripts for many of those shows. While Margaret and Anna McCarthy did make-up and other tasks back-stage, Margaret also made some notable performances on stage in those pantomimes. The political intermezzo was always a great favourite in pantomimes in Skibbereen and we remember one in particular when Margaret’s parody of Margaret Thatcher was quite brilliant.
Skibbereen Geriatric Society was founded in 1970, with the objective of providing a Meals on Wheels Service for the older residents in the town and district. Margaret was one of the founder members and right up to the time of her death she was intimately involved in the many outstanding project and ongoing work of the society.
Margaret was particularly involved in the various stages of development of 31 flatlets for the elderly in four different locations in Skibbereen. In 1993 the Geriatric Society opened Cara House Supported Care Unit in the old Boys’ National School building in Market Street, providing eight bedrooms and in 2002 it was extended to twelve bedrooms. Margaret’s contribution to the provision and management of this wonderful facility cannot be overstated. She dedicated an incredible amount of time and expertise to this enterprise.
Margaret was also a member or the Legion of Mary in Skibbereen for all her adult life. The work she and Seamus did over the years especially in the production of the Legion of Mary Newsletter was immense. Long before the advent of modern technology, the Skibbereen Newsletter was a very important link to home for many people domiciled in various parts of the world.
A poignant observation is that Margaret passed away on 4 April 2020, 56 years to the day of her marriage to Seamus, and six years to the day of Seamus’s death in 2014.
The Skibbereen & District Historical Society would like to offer its sincerest sympathy to Margaret’s family and her many good friends in Skibbereen.
Seamus Ryan was a founder member of the Historical Society and acted as treasurer for a number of years. Margaret was an avid reader of the Society’s annual Journal and always followed the activities of the Society with interest.
The death took place on 30 March 2020 of Sadie Walsh of 8 High Street, Skibbereen.
Sadie, one of the most senior and highly respected citizens of Skibbereen, died peacefully, surrounded by her family, at Skibbereen Residential Care Centre.
With her family on both sides having a long association with Skibbereen, Sadie had a deep knowledge of the town and its people. She had a great gift of recall and her memories of Skibbereen going back to the early 1930s were clear and vivid.
Sadie’s maternal grandfather, Michael McGrath, was originally from Mitchelstown. Having had a long and distinguished career in the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) he retired about 1890 with the rank of Sergeant. Michael settled in Skibbereen after his retirement and took a very active part in municipal affairs in the town.
Sadie’s father, Thomas W. O’Reilly, who was born in Kent in England, was also a sergeant in the RIC and saw service with the Irish Guards in World War I.
Sadie’s parents lived and ran a public house at No. 2 Main Street following her father’s retirement from the RIC.
Sadie (Sarah Patricia) was born in March 1926 at Main Street. She had one brother, Bernard. Her father died suddenly in October 1933 leaving a wife to look after two young children and to run the business.
The public house at No 2 Main Street was affectionately known by locals as ‘Ma Reilly’s’ and was typical of many other small pubs in rural towns at that time. ‘Ma Reilly’s’, right in the heart of the town, always did a good business and Sadie’s mother Mary Ann was a good and convivial hostess.
Sadie attended the Convent of Mercy primary school in Skibbereen and got her secondary education at Murphy’s private school at Ilen Villas, one of a number of private schools in the town. She worked for some years in Young’s Pharmacy in North Street after leaving school but gave up her job when she married James Walsh in June 1951. James’s family also had a long connection with Skibbereen.
Following her mother’s death in 1965, Sadie ran the pub at Main Street for three years but with a young family to raise, she decided to sell the business.
Among her many interests were music and singing. Sadie was a member of the choir at St Patrick’s Cathedral in her younger days. She also took part in many of the musicals staged in the Town Hall by the local Gilbert & Sullivan Society and the Choral Society in the late 1940s and 1950s.
A great family woman and a very good neighbour, Sadie had a friendly and warm personality, was always very pleasant and nice to meet and to talk to. She was a good storyteller and with her knowledge of local happenings her death severs a long link with Skibbereen and its history.
There are very few around now who can recall some of the great characters of Skibbereen like Sadie’s uncle, John Willie McGrath, and how in the early 1930s his infamous Divan appeared overnight on the Bridge. The sudden appearance of the Divan caused some consternation to members of the Urban Council over planning processes and other concerns, but they didn’t worry John Willie one bit. He ran his little shop there, selling sweets, minerals, fruit, cigars and the Sunday newspapers until his untimely death in 1934. John Willie’s Divan might have been controversial, but it lasted a long time and the timber structure was a feature on the bridge until recent years.
Sadie was predeceased by her husband James Walsh, who died in November 1987. She is survived by her loving family, Thomas, Geraldine, James, Rosellen and Tony, son-in-law Adrian Healy, daughters-in-law Bernie, Ann and Mary, her loving grandchildren, relatives, friends and neighbours.
Skibbereen & District Historical Society would like to offer its sincerest sympathy to the family of Sadie Walsh.
Please note that all public activities of Skibbereen and District Historical Society are suspended for the duration of the present Health Emergency.
We will continue to serve our website and Social Media pages.
We always welcome the submission of material for our archive. While articles of an academic nature are always valued we also like to record the personal accounts of people of their involvement in notable events or even what might be considered their ordinary day to day experiences.
The extraordinary circumstances that are touching our lives at present provide a great opportunity to write future history. Your personal accounts and photographs will be of great importance in the future. We have few personal accounts of the Famine from the ordinary people. Please send us your accounts of how the Covid-19 pandemic touches you and your family.
Material submitted may be considered for inclusion in a future edition of the society Journal or our Social Media presence.
It was with great sadness and a deep sense of loss that the Skibbereen community learned of the death of Dr Michael Boland this week. Dr Boland died peacefully on 25 March after a protracted illness. He was 71 years old.
To fully outline the enormous contribution that Dr Michael Boland made to the practice of medicine in Ireland in a short tribute such as this is impossible. Held in extraordinarily high regard by his colleagues, Dr Boland was awarded the Irish Medical Times Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013. Introducing Dr Boland at the Awards Ceremony, MC Anne Cassin of RTÉ said: ‘If doctors were asked to name just one person who has perhaps contributed the most to shaping modern Irish general practice, the name on most people’s lips would be Dr Michael Boland’.
An article in the Irish Medical Times in 2013 said Dr Michael Boland was ‘The father of Continuing Medical Education (CME) in Ireland, founding member and first chairman of the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP), President of the World Organisation of Family Doctors (WONCA), and Director of the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP) Postgraduate Resource Centre, he was the driving force behind getting general practice recognised as a specialty in medicine in Ireland’.
In 2009, University College Cork awarded Dr Boland an honorary degree of Doctor of Medicine. Delivering the citation, Prof David Kerins, then Head of the School of Medicine, UCC, said both his academic and clinical colleagues held the Skibbereen GP in ‘extraordinarily high’ regard. ‘He has played a critical role in the evolution of contemporary general practice in Ireland. He has also acted as a wonderful ambassador for Irish medicine. His influences on the advancement of general practice and patient care are recognised and appreciated on a worldwide basis’, said Prof Kerins.
Michael received his secondary education in Clongowes Wood College. He entered UCD as a medical student and having graduated in 1972 and returned to his native Skibbereen to take up general practice in partnership with the late Dr Michael O’Sullivan and the late Dr John O’Keeffe.
In 1972 Michael married Susan O’Rourke. The couple met at UCD where Susan studied Social Science.
In 1975 Dr Boland joined the highly successful Continuing Medical Education (CME) pilot scheme which had been set up in West Cork under the auspices of the Cork Vocational Training Scheme.
Working from Skibbereen, Dr Boland trialled the West Cork Pilot Group in CME in 1981 as Tutor. The pilot proved an enormous success and led directly to similar groups being established throughout Ireland. By 1984, a national CME network was established, and it helped break down the many barriers that existed between GPs, afforded them the opportunity to meet, exchange views and learn from each other.
As National Director of the CME Network from 1986 to 1997 Dr Boland directed a network of 29 GP Tutors serving 1,650 GPs (75 per cent of the GPs in Ireland) in more than 130 peer review groups. The success of the CME scheme led directly to the foundation of the Irish College of General Practitioners. Dr Boland drafted the constitution of the new College and became its first chairman from 1984 to 1987. He was elected as a fellow of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) in the UK.
In 1982 Dr Boland was honoured with a very prestigious appointment to a European medical group which examines and provides guidelines for the improvement of medicine in general practice, becoming the first Irish doctor to represent Ireland in the European Leeuwenhorst Group. In April 1990 the European group held their Spring meeting in Skibbereen, an event that was organised and hosted by Dr Michael and Susan Boland.
Dr Boland joined the Council of the World Organisation of Family Doctors (WONCA), representing Ireland in 1986. He was elected to the World Executive in 1992 and served as President from 2001 to 2004. On his appointment as President of WONCA, Dr Boland started a global campaign to combat AIDS/HIV and the proliferation of tobacco use in the developing world.
He was accorded a civic reception by Skibbereen Urban Council in June 2001 on his appointment, and in August Dr Boland was the special guest at a function at Skibbereen Heritage Centre which was attended by family, friends and members of the management committee of the Centre.
One of Dr Boland’s more high-profile achievements in terms of public awareness was the crucial role he played as chairman of the Office of Tobacco Control in Ireland. Following his appointment in 2000 he worked very closely with then Minister for Health Micheál Martin and Department of Health officials, a campaign that culminated on 16 October 2003 when a ban on smoking in all workplaces in Ireland was signed into law.
As well as his exceptional contribution to medical practice in Ireland, Dr Boland also gave very generously of his time and talents to the community in Skibbereen and he and Susan have been prominently involved with many local organisations. Susan continues her considerable work in the community.
Dr Boland followed in a family tradition of service to the community in Skibbereen as his father Michael R. Boland (Ronnie) was intimately involved in the promotion of this area for many years. Ronnie Boland and his wife Mary (née Fox) moved to Skibbereen from Dublin in 1938 when he was appointed a senior partner by Jasper Wolfe in the legal practice of Wolfe & Co., then one of the largest legal practices in the south of Ireland.
Ronnie Boland, among many other activities, was founding chairman of the West Cork Development Association and was chairman of the Skibbereen Development Association.
In 1958 Ronnie Boland published a pamphlet titled ‘The West Cork Scandal’ in which he berated the government for their neglect of West Cork. In the introduction he said: ‘This article is an exposure of the gross injustice which has been meted out to the West Cork District by our native Government. Readers can judge for themselves whether this injustice is due to neglect only or whether there has also been criminal by-passing and deliberate discrimination by those charged by their office to act in the public interest and for the common good’.
This was a remarkable expose of the state of underdevelopment of West Cork and the chronic problems of emigration and rural decay in the 1950s. Today, some sixty years later, it still makes for very interesting reading.
Dr Michael Boland was equally committed to the promotion and wellbeing of Skibbereen and West Cork. Many will remember Dr Boland’s involvement with Skibbereen Junior Chamber from the mid-1970s for well over a decade. He was president of Skibbereen Junior Chamber in 1980.
In those years debating teams from Skibbereen JC won national and international success. Skibbereen won the National JC debating title in 1975 and got to the final of the British Isles and Ireland debating competition but were narrowly beaten by Aberdeen in the final, which was held in Scotland. The Skibbereen team was Jim Byrne, Joe O’Donovan, John Field and Teddy O’Regan.
Skibbereen retained their national title in 1976 when they defeated Leopardstown in the final and went on to represent Ireland in the tripartite international debate competition and defeated Scottish champions Elgin on Saturday 11 December in the semi-final.
In the final on 19 February 1977, on a very memorable night in the Town Hall in Skibbereen, the local JC team defeated Omagh with a majority vote of the judges after a superb debate on the motion ‘that this house believes that the supremacy of man is over-rated’. The Skibbereen team was Dr Michael Boland, Cathal O’Donovan, Teddy O’Regan and Joe O’Donovan.
Susan is also a highly accomplished debater and in 1977 Skibbereen JC entered two teams for the national competition. Susan, Michael, Joe O’Donovan and Cathal O’Donovan competed on one team, while Pat Boland, Henry Peglar, Fachtna Hamilton and John Field made up the second team.
In a most cruel twist of fate, Dr Michael Boland, while still a relatively young man and with so much more to contribute to his family, his profession and his community, was struck by a debilitating illness which quickly incapacitated him.
To Susan, who has displayed such devotion and forbearance over the past number of years, and to their children Eve, Mary Jane and Mike, we offer our sincerest sympathy. Two of Dr Michael and Susan’s children, Eve and Mike, have followed their father into the medical profession.
Dr Michael Boland is also survived by his sisters Pat, Sheelah and Mary, an extended family, and friends and medical colleagues in Skibbereen, all over Ireland and in many parts of the world.
In his book Jasper Wolfe of Skibbereen, published in 2008, author Jasper Ungoed Thomas described Ronnie Boland as being ‘a member of one of the most talented and distinguished families to emerge in the Free State’. Talented and distinguished are words that go some way to describe Dr Michael Boland who certainly continued a family tradition of outstanding service to society and to the people of Ireland.
Skibbereen & District Historical Society will host a Talk on Thursday, 30th January in the West Cork Hotel @ 8.30 pm. entitled “The Land War in Ballydehob & Anna Parnell’s visit” This talk, by Eugene McSweeney, will deal with the story of agrarian unrest in the Mizen area in the early 1880‘s when a political war was declared on the landlord class. It will explore the personalities involved, how the area became a challenge for the authorities and the significance of the 1881 visit of Anna Parnell to a Land League meeting in Ballydehob.
Everyone is welcome. A small donation will be required from non-members
The death took place on 7 January 2020 of Sean Cahalane at his home at Gorteenlomane, Skibbereen.
Sean, who had been ill for only a few weeks, died, we believe, as he would have wished, at his home, surrounded by his loving family, and right to the end he maintained his peaceful and dignified demeanor, traits he displayed throughout his long life.
To paraphrase Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa who once said that he was an Irish man since he was born, Sean Cahalane was a Skibbereen man since he was born. A native of Smorane, as a young man he took over the home farm and managed the land there until he retired from farming some years ago when he moved with his family the few miles to Gorteenalomane, just south of Skibbereen town.
Sean was a quiet, unassuming man with an easy-going disposition. In the book That They May Face the Rising Sun by Irish author John McGahern, one of the main characters Jamsie, said: ‘I’ve never, never moved from here and I know the whole world.’ That could certainly be said of Sean Cahalane. He lived all his life in Skibbereen, but he knew the world. He was a highly intelligent, cultured man, well-read and in particular had an encyclopaedic knowledge of Skibbereen, its history and its people.
A very active man right up to the time of his illness, Sean was a familiar figure walking with his dog or cycling near his home. Those of us who went to Tralispean would regularly see Sean enjoying a chat with locals or visitors, the best of company and never in a rush.
He had a great appreciation of his surroundings, the land, the countryside, nature, and when one met Sean in latter years, out walking his dog or cycling, you could sense that he was a man at ease with the world and comfortable and happy in his contentment.
Requiem Mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral on Friday 10 January was celebrated by Fr Michael Kelleher, Adm., Skibbereen and Rath. Sean was a wonderful family man, husband, father, grandfather and it was particularly appropriate that members of his family fully participated in the obsequies. In a eulogy Joanne paid a beautiful tribute to her father and said how proud he was of the achievements, big and small, of his children and grandchildren.
Sean was predeceased by his infant daughter Mary and his sister Helen McCarthy (Dublin). He is survived by his wife Maura, children Majella, Joanne, Orla, Ailbhe, Eavan, Doireann, Cillian, grandchildren Art and Eliza Molloy, Sean and Ava Oliphant and Darragh Corcoran, daughter-in-law Fidelma, sons-in-law Noel, Richard and Garry, his extended family, friends and neighbours.
At a specially convened meeting of Skibbereen & District Historical Society on Friday 10 January 2020, a vote of sympathy was passed to the Cahalane family of Gorteenalomane, Skibbereen, on the death of Sean.
Our deepest sympathy goes especially to Maura, chairperson of Skibbereen & District Historical Society, on her great loss.
The death took place on Friday 13 December 2019 of John Carmody of Gortnaclohy, Skibbereen.
John, who had been ill for some time, died at his home in the loving care of his family; his wife Margaret, children Brian, Treena, Orla, Taragh, Maeve, Aisling and Seán.
A native of Causeway in north Kerry, John spent most of his adult life working and living in County Cork, but he was a Kerry man to the core, first and always.
In latter years John was mostly well known for his involvement with the O’Donovan Rossa GAA Club, but his service to the community in Skibbereen dates back much further than that.
He began his working life as a tractor salesman with Tralee Motors at the age of sixteen. John spent two years in Tralee before joining Erin Foods on a trainee management programme. He started his training in Mallow, then spent some time in Thurles. In 1965 he was appointed a manager at the Erin Foods Fastnet Co-Operative Society factory on the Marsh Road in Skibbereen which went into production in October of that year.
Erin Foods Ltd had been set up by Cómhlucht Siúicre Éireann Teo (the Irish Sugar Company) and they established a number of food processing plants around the country, including Mallow and Skibbereen in County Cork. These were essentially co-operative societies. Fr Diarmuid Linehan, then CC in Skibbereen, was one of the main inspirations behind the Skibbereen factory and he acted as chairman of the Co-Op for some years.
In April 1967 Erin Foods Ltd reached agreement with the Pittsburgh-based H.J. Heinz Co to set up a joint company with the object of marketing and distributing products made by the Irish company. The future looked very bright for Erin Foods and for the Fastnet Co-Op Society factory in Skibbereen.
It was a huge boon to the greater Skibbereen area, both economically and socially. By September 1967 the processing plant was operating at full capacity and there were nearly 200 men and women employed full-time, with three eight-hour shifts working around the clock. As well as that, there were hundreds of farmers in West Cork growing vegetables to supply the factory.
In April 1967 then Taoiseach Jack Lynch visited the Skibbereen factory with Mr. Tony O’Reilly, Managing Director of Erin Foods. Tony O’Reilly, who later had a holiday home in Glandore, visited the plant in Skibbereen three times that year, and was accompanied by Mr. A. Forsyth, Operating Director of Heinz-Erin Foods Ltd on a visit in November.
While the potential for the Skibbereen factory was enormous, it always seemed to be peripheral to the long-term plans of Erin Foods and was never given the investment it needed. The Irish Sugar company took the decision in November 1980 to ‘cease market and financial support’ for the Skibbereen based plant and that, in essence, represented the death-knell for the factory. Although hopes were high that an alternative industry could be found, operations at the factory were wound down and it eventually closed at the end of August 1981 when the last fifty employees finished work.
An interesting aside to the story of the Fastnet factory is that in its final months, a local task force was set up to try and come up with an alternative industry for the premises. The task force, made up of members of management and employees, came up with several ideas, one particularly interesting one. The task force suggested that the plant could access local spring water and bottle it for sale. The idea was ruled out by Erin Foods executives. Who in Ireland would buy bottled spring water? It seems that the Skibbereen task force was just that bit too much ahead of its time!
Having arrived in Skibbereen in 1965, John Carmody met Margaret Harnedy in 1967 and following their marriage they set up home at Curragh, across the road from the Fastnet factory.
As well as starting a family, John and Margaret were very involved in many community initiatives in Skibbereen.
Skibbereen Geriatric Society was founded following a public meeting convened under the auspices of the St Vincent de Paul Society on 21 February 1970, with the objective of providing a Meals on Wheels Service for the older residents in the town and district. Right from the beginning John and Margaret were prominently involved with the great work of the Geriatric Society.
Meals were provided initially through the co-operation of St Anne’s Hospital, the Convent of Mercy, the West Cork Hotel, the Busy Bee and Carbery Restaurant. In 1977 the Geriatric Society installed a kitchen in the CYMS Hall in Market Street and it was then providing meals to 18 senior citizens every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. John Carmody was chairman of the Geriatric Society at that time and helped to deliver the meals, and Margaret organised the sourcing and preparation of the food – all voluntary work. The Geriatric Society later moved its operation to a purpose-built facility at Cara House, Market Street.
In 1973 Skibbereen Geriatric Society provided the first sheltered housing for elderly people in this area and built seven flatlets at Convent Hill. Such was the demand for these flatlets, that the Society undertook a further building project and the site was cleared for phase two of the development at Convent Hill in August 1978. John Carmody was chairman of the Society for this project. At the official opening of the new development in October 1979, John made a passionate appeal for State financial aid for groups like the Geriatric Society who were doing such important work in local communities.
Another thing we heard talk of this week was the ‘Tops of the Towns’, which John and Margaret were very involved in. In the 1970s the Tops of the Towns was a big event in Ireland. It was an initiative designed to generate social involvement at all levels within and between firms and community groups. In 1976 Skibbereen embraced the idea and local groups including ‘Shops and Offices’ Fastnet Co-Op Social Club, HQS, Drinagh Co-Operative and other groups put on variety shows of the highest quality in the Town Hall. ‘Shops and Offices’ won the overall award in 1976, the show was produced by Tom Walsh. Tops of the Towns ran for a few years in Skibbereen and was a marvellous social event, and also an important fundraiser for local charities.
Following the closure of the Fastnet factory in 1981, John and Margaret found themselves with the dilemma of having to make a new life for themselves.
John did have offers of other employment, but with his and Margaret’s considerable initiative and drive, and their desire to stay in Skibbereen, it seemed a logical step to open their own business. In 1982 John and Margaret bought and substantially refurbished a premises at Bridge Street previously run by Denis and Joan Davis.
The Carmodys took over the business on March 29 and having carried out extensive renovations to the three-storey premises which corners onto ‘the Cutting’ they opened a Centra Foodstore and An Cruiscin Lan Lounge Bar at the end of May 1982. It was the first Centra shop in Skibbereen.
With the foodstore open from 7.30am to 10pm, seven days a week, and the lounge bar, often open a lot later, it was a brave undertaking for John and Margaret, who at that stage had six young children. Through extraordinary hard work, their outgoing personalities and their great way of dealing with people, Margaret and John built up a very successful business over the next seven years.
All the while, John and Margaret were always generous with their time and their talents in supporting and promoting anything that would better Skibbereen. They were both very involved in the Skibbereen Welcome Home Week and Maid of the Isles Festival for many years, John acted as chairman and president at different times.
But John’s big passion was of course the GAA and his contribution to the O’Donovan Rossa GAA Club over more than forty years was enormous. His love for the GAA was fostered in his home parish, Causeway, a hurling enclave in what is otherwise a football-mad county.
He played hurling and football for the Rossas, hurling being his favoured game. He would be the first to admit that he didn’t perform any great gaisce on the playing field. Talking to some of his team-mates, we can safely say that he was very committed and passionate, and we’ll leave it at that!
But as a clubman, John Carmody was without equal. He served two terms as chairman of the O’Donovan Rossa club, the first from 1985 to 1989, and the second from 2008 to 2017. He was president of the club at the time of his death. In his first year as chairman of the club in 1985, Rossas won the County Intermediate Football Championship and he was involved with hurling and football teams at various levels over the years.
In his two terms as chairman he undertook major development works at Rossa Park. The improvement of the changing rooms, the playing facilities, the state of the art astro turf training pitch, the main pitch itself, development of facilities at the Marsh, were projects that were tackled under his guidance. And he didn’t to things in half measures; anything John did he did it right.
He was involved in so many community organisations, we often wondered how he sat through all those meetings. John Carmody had a restless energy that wasn’t suited to meetings. He was a doer, not a talker. While some of us talked and talked, John got out and did things and he had the great ability to motivate those around him to achieve what needed to be done.
In 1989 John and Margaret decided to sell their business in Skibbereen and they brought the Owenabue Inn in Carrigaline. Again, they brought all their business acumen and their personalities to bear in this ambitious undertaking and they made a huge success of the Owenabue Inn.
They both got very involved in the community in Carrigaline. John was a member of the Lions Club, and, as president, he led the initiative to build a scheme of housing for the elderly. The Abbey View Housing Scheme for the Elderly at Carrigaline was opened by the then President of Ireland, Mary Robinson in July 1996.
Having developed the Owenabue Inn into a hugely successful business, John and Margaret decided to try their hand at another business venture in Cork City. The venture did not go according to plan, and they then decided to move back to Skibbereen.
Straight away John immersed himself in various community projects in Skibbereen, but the Rossa GAA Club took up more and more of his time.
His second term as club chairman, from 2008 to 2017, saw a period of extraordinary improvements in the club. The various project he undertook completely consumed him. Probably only those who worked closely with him will ever know just how much work he did for the Rossa club in the last ten or twelve years. But John didn’t want or expect any plaudits; he didn’t want any clap on the back; he did what he did because he loved it. His reward was being at Rossa Park when it was a hive of activity. On a Friday evening in early summer, between the park and the Marsh, there could be up to ten or twelve different teams training, ranging in age from under-8 boys and girls, right up to adult level, in both hurling and football. That was John Carmody’ reward. And it will be his legacy!
While remembering the enormous contribution John Carmody made to the community in Skibbereen and Carrigaline, he was first and foremost a family man. John died at his home at Gortnaclohy on Friday night, 13 December, surrounded by his family. Margaret, his children Brian, Treena, Orla, Taragh, Maeve, Aisling and Seán; his ten grandchildren, his extended family, were all a source of great pride and consolation to him.
There was a very gracious and warm moment when John was removed from his home at Gortnaclohy on the way to St. Patrick’s Cathedral for Requiem Mass on Monday morning. John was taken on one final visit to Rossa Park – a silent, private tribute with members of his family.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Skibbereen, was packed to capacity for concelebrated Requiem Mass on Monday at 12 noon. Chief celebrant was Very Rev Michael Kelleher, Adm., Skibbereen, and he was joined on the altar by Rev John O’Donovan CC, Bandon, a native of Skibbereen.
At the end of Mass, Sean Carmody paid a beautifully poignant tribute to his father.
As the funeral cortege left the Cathedral, an extensive guard of honour was provided by members of the O’Donovan Rossa GAA Club, members of Skibbereen Fianna Fáil Cumann, of which John was a long-time member, and representatives of Carrigaline Lions Club.
Following prayers at the graveside at St. Patrick’s Cemetery, Noel Kearney, a former chairman of the Rossa GAA Club, delivered an oration. Then Con McCarthy, sang ‘The Rose of Tralee’ and ‘The Boys of Barr na Sráide’, two of John’s favourite songs. Fittingly, there was a spontaneous rendition of ‘Dear Old Skibbereen’, to bring to an end a heartfelt and sincere tribute to a man who served his family, his community and his club with great pride and distinction.
“Skibbereen & District Historical Society will host a Talk on Thursday, 5th December , in the West Cork Hotel @ 8.30 pm. entitled “The O’Connell Monster Meeting, Skibbereen, 1843″.
In June 1843, Skibbereen hosted one in a series of Monster Meetings held by Daniel O’Connell throughout Ireland to force the issue of Repeal of the Act of Union.
Gerald O’Brien of the Skibbereen and District Historical Society has unique and unparalleled knowledge of the Skibbereen meeting, which was probably the largest gathering of people ever in West Cork. Join him in a conversation about this unique event, where he explores his knowledge of
this time and tells us why Skibbereen was picked, how the meeting was organised and what happened afterwards.
Everyone is welcome.
A small donation will be required from non-members.”