Shock and disbelief visited every home in the Parish of Kilmeena and its environs as the tragic news of the sudden and untimely death of one of its distinguished residents, Tommy Casey, spread throughout the region. A stunned community struggled to accept the incomprehensible reality that our humble, unobtrusive beloved Tommy would no longer be amongst us. Words became inadequate, and our meagre minds were reluctant to accept this devastation that had been thrust upon us.
Tommy was born in December 1941. He was the third son of Michael and Julia Casey. On completion of his Primary education, Tommy emigrated to Scotland to join his father and his brothers, Pat, Liam and Mick harvesting the potato crops. In 1967, following the death of his Dad, Tommy returned home to take care of his mother and the family farm. Tommy was always progressive and in order to sustain a comfortable lifestyle he secured employment with Seafield Gentex- Textiles factory in Westport and continued there until his retirement in 1996. Tommy also worked for Michael Mulchrone and this employment blossomed into a lifelong friendship between the two men, Michael’s wife, Ann and their family.
Tommy was a Connacht champion boxer in his youth. He also proudly donned the Kilmeena jersey and never waivered in his support of the Club regardless of the absence of glory and silverware. Tommy was an ardent supporter of the Green and Red of Mayo and fervently believed that the coveted Sam Maguire would soon visit this county. Along with his next-door neighbour and lifelong friend, Liam Garavan, the duo were always amongst the “Faithful" at County matches whether the lads or girls were in action. Tommy was an ever-present figure at the Club matches and on numerous occasions played a role of sideline referee with his two deceased friends, Paddy Keane and Tom Gill, both from Mayour, whose over zealous comments towards a decision on the field of play sometimes required a little dilution! It was with total pride for his small rural Club and, in customary fashion, maintaining a background presence that Tommy attended every function to celebrate the 125th Anniversary in 2014. The loud applause when he received his accreditation was testimony to the popularity of this totally unassuming personality. In sheer delight, he attended the presentation of the Cleary Shield to Kilmeena G.A.A. Club in April this year. Jim Cleary, now residing in Bristol, Wales was originally from Drimard and Tommy’s neighbour. Tommy was totally animated chatting to Jim’s daughters, Kim and Maureen, about his memories of their Dad.
Tommy was always driven by his relentless ambition to improve his community and was one of the three Trustees who set up Kilmeena Group Water Scheme in 1981. This was not to be a dormant role for Tommy. His personal time and monetary considerations were irrelevant as he helped to install the network of pipes in the Parish and continued” Free Gratis” for many years to maintain the scheme and repair leaks so that the community had a reliable water supply. He held a special interest in the upkeep and maintenance of Parish cemeteries both old and new. In his quiet, unassuming manner, he led by example and a natural progression of voluntary support was ignited. Perhaps his most fitting legacy is the restoration of the old graveyard and the Statue of Calvary. The evidence of Tommy’s horticultural skills are obvious in Myna new cemetery where he set hedges and flowers in his inimitable fashion. The old cliché suggests “A woman’s touch" around the house, but Tommy’s home and farm.
emphatically refute this sentiment. Even the casual observer has been overwhelmed by the precision and pristine upkeep of the property of this single man. Tommy held the status of a single man but as his family will testify they always received a heartfelt welcome when they returned to their home in Cross. Although they all reside overseas, his love for his siblings and their offspring was constant and undiminished, and he never forgot the traditional Christmas card to each of his nephews and nieces or an acknowledgement of that special occasion in their lives.
As befitting our beloved community activist, Tommy Casey was laid in state in the Community Centre. His funeral on both days bore testimony that one of life’s gentle personalities with a concealed inbuilt strength of character, had won the hearts of the hundreds of mourners who assembled to pay their final respects. Tommy never sought the spotlight or the accolade. He was the epitome of humility, sincerity, kindness and generosity. He was a loyal and true friend to his family, friends, neighbours and his community. His pride and satisfaction were never for self-gratification but his ability to provide a solution and bring happiness to another individual or group.
The sadness, grief and loneliness were palpable as Liam Garavan led the procession which took our Community anchor and Club stalwart to be laid down alongside his parents in Myna Cemetery beneath the trees, hedges and gravestones that he so fondly tended and restored over the years. The unseen hand of destiny has closed the book on Tommy Casey from Cross. The familiar friendly wave as he tilled his crops, arranged his flower beds or manicured his hedges has been obliterated. However, nature will not allow the community to forget one of life’s true gentlemen because each year as Spring caresses the earth, the daffodils, lupins and dahlias will bloom and as the sweet scent of roses wafts through the air the memory of Tommy Casey will be evoked. He belonged to an era that this community will never see again, and his indelible mark will always be present. Rest now, Tommy, in God’s Peace in brighter realms beyond the sky as we continue our battle cry on your behalf: Kilmeena abu! Come On Mayo!
Ní bheidh a leithéid ann arís sa pharóiste seo.
Many thanks to: Tommy Staunton, Ollie Mulchrone, Jim Keane and Anne Marie Molloy for providing the images and authenticating the accuracy of the information in the above article.
A series of photographs documenting the works involved in the restoration of the old graveyard was compiled in book form (Calvery) by Anne Marie Molloy.
You may view the contents by clicking on the link below.
The book may be viewed full-screen, by clicking on the “full-screen icon” on the bottom right of the viewing panel.
Be patient, as the images may take some time to load on your screen.
Should you wish to purchase a copy of the book, you may do so by clicking on the “order” icon on the top right of the viewing panel.
Note: No financial benefit accrues to Anne Marie from sales of the book. The entire cost as stated goes to the publishers "Photobox."
Our sincere thanks to Anne Marie for sharing this link with us.