Oh brother: Everyone loved you

    Tribute to Tommy Brennan by his brother Kierney

    TOMMY’S dear wife Rita along with Kevin, Claire, Abbie and Katie, Theresa and Alec, Erin, Sean, Tom and especially Pauline would like to thank you all for your attendance, a loving Castlecomer brother told a congregation at a funeral at St George’s Church, Walthamstow, London.

    “We are here  to celebrate Tom’s life and to bring him on his final journey. Thanks to Tom’s brothers and sisters, numerous and beloved nieces and nephews and all the members of our extended family here and those unable to attend.

    ” I carry with me numerous condolences from Ireland and one in particular from Joe O’Neill, Tommy’s cousin and great friend for many years, said Kierney Brennan of Castlecomer at the funeral of his brother Tommy.

    In his message, Joe O’Neill, the Ballyhemmon man, said that before mobile phones or social media the bush telegraph was often the source of information and one of his favourite messages on it was: ‘I see the Knacky’s home.

    ‘Upon entering you were greeted with a bear hug from Tommy and for the next week or so all was well with the world. Aunt Maggie would be sitting by the fireside, Miner would already have the paper got and opened at the racing pages.

    ‘Then the picking of horses would begin. Sometimes the selectors won – more often than not they didn’t, but that wasn’t the entire purpose.

    ‘It was also about the shared ritual, the shared moments of expectation, participation and promise. Saturdays were the best  when Tommy would come into his own, surrounded by his own, by the people he loved and who loved him.

    ‘Bollard’s Bar. Racing channel on. The Sam, with the Brek down from Dublin. Jack over from Ballyragget. The Tasty down from the North. Nulty at the bar and of course the Miner. ‘Kierney, ready to tell a yarn and Michael J., always gentlemanly and equally witty. Some of the children of the street becoming children again. Cycles of friendship. And in the mix, the Whacker, the Chairman, the Barton trying to get the channel switched to rugby, young Mul, the Neighbour and the Red Lad.

    ‘Ned Byrne recounting school days and funny stories, the Jasper, the Cada, and the sole Corkman, Noel, amid a sea of Kilkenny cats. Dooley, Matty, John Farrell, the Reddy, Mickey Curran, Gagsie and Hurley in after a half day carrying bags of coal.

    ‘The Conny and Seamie Walsh after the bookies closed and later Shergar and Tom Shea and the Ballyhemmon man observing and marvelling.

    ‘Tommy loved all these people and they loved him and that was so evident in their interactions. I never heard him curse, never heard him talk about or judge other people. In that, he was the rarest of men.

    ‘But it was his family that he loved above all and of whom he was most proud – Rita, Kevin, Theresa, Tom and later on his grandchildren. These were the apples of his eye and the source of his joy. He lived for them. They kept him going and cared for him so lovingly to the end.

    ‘His own family meant the world to him also. He adored his mother and always spoke of his father. His brothers and sisters were the extra limbs of his own body, with the Miner (Seán)  especially close as they shared so much together during their working lives in London. ‘

    ‘Extended family was equally important. He always came to see my father, Tom, when he was alive and thereafter never missed a visit to my mother, his aunt Nan in Ballyhemmon.

    ‘Then it was down to uncle Martin and Lena  in The Wood. He never went back without visiting.

    ‘With horses winning or losing the night would usually finish up in Dillon’s, his people still there. The Kitten holding court, the Miko trying to get a word in edgeways, the Conny ready to sing My Way in his own inimitable style, the Gonny getting a dig in about the ‘elite street’ but ever ready to play the bones and his great friend, the Hickey, one of the wittiest of men who ever walked under a  ‘Comer sky, and the Plug arguing hurling.

    ‘Sometimes the night would end up where it began in 33, with stories to be told and memories to be forged anew.

    Some people are judged by what they’ve done or achieved, by what they have or by what they have acquired. The greatest are judged by just being who they are, no pretence, no presumption. That was Tommy.

    ‘There was a realness about him and in his own acceptance and serenity I always felt an ease and a serenity in myself. That was Tommy’s special gift – the ability to make people feel at ease, feel comfortable in being themselves.

    ‘Tommy, Knacky you left a lasting impression on me. I was proud to have you in my family but honoured to have you as my friend. I loved you and admired you and your wonderful way with people. I know I will never forget you. Rest your gentle soul on the pillow of peace.’

    In his early life Tommy always loved Christmas. While a few years old only he went with a very young Seamus and took a life size statue of the lamb from the crib in the church and went to the Meadow Hill to get fresh grass for the lamb.

    Even at an early age they had hearts of gold. He attended national school in Castlecomer. He didn’t have a 100% attendance as he often skipped off to study forestry in the local woodland and also to mind the donkey in Brophy’s stable.

    ‘This did not deter him from being proficient in maths as later on he could calculate what was due on any combination of horses quicker than a calculator.

    He was the local champ at swimming the river, excelled at basketball and was a good runner. He worked at Quinn’s local grocery and drapery store where he learned the rudiments of business which was to be useful to him later in life when he and Rita set up a business in the off licence trade.

    He also enjoyed a successful career in construction in London over many years. Like his father, grandfather and great grandfather and two brothers he spent some time in the local coal mines.

    Being a male is a matter of birth. Being a man is a matter of age but being a gentleman is a matter of choice.

    We salute you Tommy. You were a true gentleman, an exemplary man, a man of faith, a man of dignity and high principles, a man who has left an enduring legacy to us all.

    To all the family I say as in Psalm 34

    “The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart”

    Silas na bhFlaitheas dá anam uasal.

    The light of heaven to his noble soul.

    Kieran Brennan

    Tommy was born on May 2, 1937 and died January 18, 2018

    Tommy’s Month’s Mind Mass is in Castlecomer Church on February 17 at 7pm.