Eulogy for my father

My dad died on 12th February 2023. He now follows my mother who died on 15th September 1995 and my younger brother Finbar, who died on 6th February 2018.

Good morning everyone, and thank you for being able to make it today to help us mark dad’s life, and pray for him as we bring him to his final resting place. 

A number of people were unable to make it yesterday or today and have separately sent their condolences.  On behalf of the family, I’d like to thank them for their kind messages.

A number of our cousins also couldn’t make it today.  I’d ask you to also keep them in your thoughts and prayers.

I’d like to start by thanking a number of people:

Thanks to Marie Walsh & those at DISC hire for the lights we used yesterday for the parking at the house for everyone coming in.

I won’t chance names here, but thank you to all of those who came together last night for catering and setting up the house. You helped create an atmosphere that dad would have been proud of.  It gave a real sense of a community coming together to help out.

The staff in Egan’s funeral home have been an incredible support for us.  They have guided, advised, and tolerated changes with no fuss.  Billy, Andy, thank you.

I’d like to thank those working at the County Council yard in Killeagh – at very little notice they came up and patched up the road.  It helped those who had travelled to offer their support.

Dad was proud to be a member of the Inch Point to Points, and it was great that they were able to help out with traffic and directions yesterday.

I’d like to thank Rita Scannell and Anne Keniry for looking after the flowers.

I’d also like to thank Rita for recording this so that friends and family can join us online.

For the choir, all of those who sang, and also for John Casey, Catherine Keniry and Mary Daly for helping to organise and bring it all together.

I’d like to thank the staff of Glendonagh who have been very good to us and for looking after dad over the past year.

I’d like to thank Fr. Frank O’Neill who came up to Glendonagh on Sunday to say prayers with us and bless dad.

Fr. Eamonn Barry has been a good friend to our family for a number of years.  He was very good to dad in the years after mam died.

I’d like to thank Fr. Tim for being there for us on so many occasions over the past number of years.  He has been a great support, and continues to be so.

Thank you to all of those who visited dad over the past few years. He really enjoyed and appreciated those visits.

They say it takes a community to raise a child.  Well over the past few days we have seen a community come together to help say farewell to one of its own.

How do you sum up a life that has spanned 92 years? I could try for a load of anecdotes about the things he said and did, but would need the bones of 92 years to get through it all.  He lived such a full life.

To try to go over dad’s life is like taking a peek at just how much this country has changed in this lifetime.

Dad was born in 1930, into a small household with a small farm just up the road from here in Ballykilty.  He sometimes talked about going to Youghal with his mother on the horse and cart, and how she would check her purse every so often to make sure she hadn’t lost her money.  Things were tight.

He sometimes talked about seeing World War II barrage balloons out at sea protecting the convoys on their way to England.

He was 14 when the war ended, and only a short time later he moved to England to make a living.  He spent his time on building sites over there, coming home with a feast of stories, and the start of a plan to buy his own farm.

For years dad worked as a labourer for others, building up his reputation and his finances until he was able to eventually move on to buy the home farm in Ballinalough.  And it was there that he built the rest of his life.

Dad was a man who was willing to take chances, to work incredibly hard, and he was willing to glimpse a future and try new things.

At our brother Finbar’s funeral 5 years ago I was told how dad was one of the first people in County Cork to build slatted units for cattle.  He had the ability to think outside of what was normally done, and to go for a big plan.

Dad was gifted. He knew machines, and he knew how to build and how to fix them.
Once, we were cutting silage and something got caught in the blades of the mower, causing the gears in the tractor to get damaged.
Dad, along with our cousin Matthew, took the rear of the tractor apart, found the damaged gears, replaced them, and rebuilt the tractor. 
35 years later and I’d still be trying to fix that particular jigsaw.

There was another time when the one ton bags of fertiliser were coming onto the market.  Dad went to Atkins in Midleton, I think it was, and had a long, slow, really good look at the mechanism for loading those bags into a fertiliser spreader.

And then he went off, bought the pieces, and made one for himself. I don’t think he ever heard of Patent Laws.

He was able to do so much, and was always willing to learn more, to try out more.

He loved farming so much.  He just loved animals. He just wasn’t so good at remembering their names.  Every dog we had as a family ended up being called ‘shep’, no matter what name the rest of us had given that dog. 

Even though he officially retired at the age of 65, nothing of that sort actually happened.  He was always checking in with Mark and Finbar on how they were doing. Walking the fields, checking mart prices, watching the farming programmes.  Believe it or not, he still helped Mark draw silage at the age of 89.  Think.  89 years old and still able to get into a tractor and draw a few loads of silage.

Dad loved sport.  He was a proud member of the Inch point-to-points, and loved going up to the track to help out and to watch the races.

For years, decades, dad followed the point-to-points every winter.  He only finally stopped when he physically found it too hard to be on the course in winter. But he never lost the love of horse racing.  He’d constantly follow racing on the TV, and knew so much about trainers, breeders and jockeys. 

He loved following those he knew, such as Richard Rohan. Any time Richie was racing dad would know, and be looking for that race on TV.  Even better if the race was close to home and he could get someone to give him a lift.

He loved following how Seamus Rohan was doing with any horse he had.  Seamus has a horse racing today, and no doubt, hopes that dad can put in a good word.  To be fair, though, based on his track record, Seamus and the horse may need full on Divine Intervention rather than just a good word from dad.

Because of his love of horses, dad particularly enjoyed visiting Seamus, or as Thomas calls him, “The son that dad never had”

Dad regularly followed soccer, GAA and Rugby.  He just enjoyed seeing teams out there, excelling in their various disciplines.  Unusually enough, in following the premier league, he never had a favourite team, just followed the matches for the game itself.  He sometimes timed his visits to others based on what sports they tended to watch, and whether there was a match or race on that day.

So, for all of the Shanahans and the O’Donoghues, some of those visits weren’t just for the chat.  He loved to watch a good game while visiting.  If there was a cup of tea going, so much the better.

At heart, dad was a family man. While mam was alive he simply worked the farm, came home, and spent time at home in the evenings.  That was his week; that was his life.

It took years for mam to convince dad to have a holiday. He finally relented and brought 6 of us in a caravan to Killarney.  Some years it was lovely, some years it rained non stop. But it was part of a routine, a treat and was something that mam and dad loved doing together.

When we were older mam and dad took holidays on their own to Killarney and up along the west coast, going from B&B to B&B.  One year when they were gone I went looking at a van that dad had left parked at home.

Turns out he’d removed the spark plugs.  Kind hearted he may be. Fool he was not.

It’s one of life’s cruel strokes that mam died aged 64, and dad lost the chance to spend a retirement with her.

However, Dad learned to deal with mam’s death, and over time learned to live a life full of friendship and care of others.

Dad was a person who cared deeply for others. His generosity was born out of instinct and “the right thing to do”. 

Things like you didn’t miss a funeral, you visited the sick, you visited those in a nursing home.  And, you’ll like this one Tim, you paid the priest for the petrol money or the dues at Easter and Christmas.

Years ago, before Thomas the elder was born, dad and mam fostered Martin Rohan for about 6 months.

It was years later before we knew. I suppose that’s because dad didn’t boast or make a fuss.

Martin reckons that this was why he always felt he had a special connection with mam, and why he was always able to get away with things that nobody else could in our house! Martin and the late John Coleman were in a special category there.

Dad tried to avoid being judgemental. For example, if he heard of a relationship breaking down, his only comment would be ‘isn’t that sad’, and show concern for those affected.  He was simply a thoroughly decent and a good person.

A word that has been used a lot over the past few days is ‘Gentleman’.  Dad showed respect for those around him.  He was always polite, and enjoyed spending time with people. He took the time to know others, and took the time to sit with them and to talk.  And he could hold a conversation with virtually anyone. 

He had a great way with people.  I don’t think he ever saw it himself – it’s just the way he was. He was really shy about some things. 

At his 25th wedding anniversary in the Walter Raleigh, I can clearly remember Johnnie and Mattie, his brothers, having to persuade dad to give some bit of a speech. “Tommy, you have to say something, it’s like a groom at a wedding”

He had a great sense of humour. Not so much in the sense of telling jokes, but in the sense of finding humour in the world around us.

He once invited a woman working for the Ordinance Survey into dinner. She was surveying the sheds and buildings on the farm for the latest maps.

As we were eating she got the usual style interrogation. When dad found out she was married, but had no visible ring, she said, “I only wear the ring when I’m going out”

To which he quickly replied

“Shur that’s exactly when you shouldn’t be wearing it!”

You can only imagine the glare he got from mam.

In later years the love that dad had for his siblings and in-laws was so powerful to see.  He had such a special place in his heart for Agnes O’Donoghue, Nora Buckett, Josie Hurley and Joan Hurley.  He loved visiting them, and loved their visits.  He always took the opportunity to visit Mick Shanahan and the late Ted whenever possible.

Dad loved his grandchildren, and you would see his face light up anytime he was with them.  Lena, Andrea, Daniella, Hannah, Thomas and Molly.  He would be so proud of you for helping out today, and he loved you all so much.

Dad lived a full, productive and a happy life.  Never far from those who he loved.  He started with virtually nothing, and has created a legacy that we can look up to.  He worked hard, respected those around him, and by instinct showed kindness and generosity at every turn.

I think we could all learn a bit from him.

As we leave here today, we will bring Dad to St. Fergal’s cemetery and we’ll lay him to rest beside Mam and Finbar. 

Following that, on behalf of all the family, I’d like to invite you to the Thatch for some food afterwards.

I’ll finish by reciting the prayer of Cardinal Newman

O Lord support us all the day long

Until the shadows lengthen and the evening comes,

And the busy world is hushed

And our life is over, and our work is done

Then, Lord

In your mercy give us a safe lodging

A holy rest, and peace everlasting

Through Christ our Lord


1 thought on “Eulogy for my father

  1. Thank you for this. It was such a lovely service, and your words were particularly beautiful. We were glad that we could be there virtually at least. Sending much love to all of you.

    Sent from my iPhone

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