It all started on the 9th of August 1940, in a small farm house in Raha about 3 miles south of Oughterard. Nurse Geraghty, the local midwife, was called to deliver a baby for Nora and David Walsh. Tom was born to a family that would eventually extend to 2 girls and 9 boys.
Tom’s father David died in 1974, and his mother Nora only passed away in March 2007.
With a sod of turf
School those days was a couple of miles of a walk with a sod of turf for the fire to keep the pupils and teacher warm. Many a battle was fought on the way to school. Fishing was Tom’s favourite hobby back then also.
Tom worked as a teenager gardening in Glebe House for Cannon Dunlap, the Church of Ireland minister for Oughterard at the time, (the house is still standing behind the Connemara Gateway Hotel) also for Colonel Lambert up by the waterfall. Later he worked for Mickey Monahan (Sean Monahan’s dad, RIP).
The juke box was worn out
In 1959 Tom emigrated to England with his brother Michéal, as so many had to do those days, as work and money were hard to come by. They both ended up in Oxford, staying in B&B. You weren’t allowed to stay in the rooms, except to sleep and have your meals, so many an evening was spent with Michéal down the local. According to Michéal, the juke box was worn out with Tom constantly playing Jim Reeves “I Love You Because”. That song was Tom’s all-time favourite and his party piece at most weddings and get-togethers, and as an honour to him that same song was played at his funeral.
Tom worked hard on the buildings as all emigrants did. His chosen profession was a plasterer. Soon afterwards he met his future wife Mary (whose father was also a plasterer), and they were married in 1962. They had two children, Anne and Andy.
I don’t think there’s a lake in Connemara that Tom didn’t fish, Tom had a lot of what he called “secret lakes”, most of which nobody was allowed to follow him to so that they might remain his “secret lakes”. He had many a fish tale to tell about the one that got away; fishermen always have those sorts of stories, but we have seen some of the ones that didn’t get away – they graced Tom’s breakfast plate.
Old black bicycle
The nickname “Mahongy” came about 30 years ago. Tom’s younger brother Joe lent Tom an old black bicycle with an extra high frame which used to belong to a man called Pat Geoghan nicknamed “Jingle”, a nickname which he didn’t like. Jingle owned a small shop beside Hessions; he was quite a large man, so he had this extra high framed bike.
Someone asked Tom one day while he was cycling (on his way to Maam Cross to go fishing) “What sort of a bike is that?”, to which he replied “It’s a mahongy of a bike”. So the nickname stuck.
As so many people who had the good fortune to meet and know him, they all say that when they met him, he always made them smile and had a kind and usually humorous story to brighten their day. Even down to his trusted dog, who most people will remember as the “co-driver” of his red Citroen Berlingo and was named Ben Ladden, Ben for short.
Sadly, towards the end of March this year. Tom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Even that didn’t stop him from fishing and daily taking a spin across town and to the pier looking out across the lake, the islands and the beautiful scenery which he loved so much.
Unfortunately, sooner than any of us expected, Tom passed away very peacefully at the age of 67. But as so many people who knew him well said, he lived his life and enjoyed himself, what more could any of us ask for. He was one of Oughterards characters, and will be missed.
On behalf of the family, we would like to thank all those who helped us through our great loss.