Athea Credit Union Hosts Special Function for John O’Connell and John Joe Barrett

A special function is being hosted by the local Credit Union in the Con Colbert Hall on Sunday 11th inst. It is a rather poignant occasion, namely, to mark the retirement of two of its greatest stalwarts, John O’Connell and John Joe Barrett.

It will commence at 2 PM with a private session, confined to the officer board, to be followed at 3.30 PM by a public reception, to which all will be very welcome. I might mention that refreshments, supplied by Colleen Reidy, will be served.

It would be impossible for me, even to synopsise it, to adequately describe the contribution made by both Johns not just to the development of the Credit Union, but the life of Athea community over a long number of years. It would require reams of print to do justice to their achievements, and I wouldn’t dare to single out one above the other in terms of their significance.

John O’Connell is one of the great unsung heroes of our parish. There is hardly a development in Athea which doesn’t bear his imprint, be it St. Vincent de Paul, from which stemmed the Housing Association, the upkeep of the graveyard with Thady, the Tidy Towns, the Community Council, the GAA, the Carnival Committee, the Con Colbert Memorial Committee and ……………. !

John Joe, from Knocknagorna, like many of his peers, emigrated to the USA, probably in the early Fifties, where he found himself drafted into the American army during the Korean war. Safely emerging from that trauma, Kitty and himself returned to Lower Athea and, immediately got immersed in all community affairs. John Joe had a skilled pair of hands, and the brain to go with them and became one of the best-known tradesmen in the locality.

He, too, like his namesake, pitched into any community matters that needed him, along with rearing a very talented family. And it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge Kitty’s contribution both as entertainer and assistant treasurer.

It was John O Connell who first mentioned the Credit Union. The only thing he knew was that it had to do with money, something that was desperately needed at the time, to begin construction of the Colbert Memorial Hall.

It was a cold Autumn night when three Dubliners, one of them, Kathleen Matthews, was Nora’s sister-in-law, came to a meeting in the school to tell us about this new-fangled organisation, all about money in one form or the other ; alas, no bonanza for the memorial !

Maybe we hadn’t the gumption to tell them their suggested financial planning wasn’t what we needed so badly ; however, we went along with their suggestion that we form a study group, and thus Athea and District Credit Union was established in 1968, probably the first one in Limerick – or Kerry for that matter !

Among the officers chosen on the night Jerry Carey became treasurer. He was one of many outstanding Gardaí we had over the years; however, shortly afterwards he was transferred out of the parish and John Joe Barrett stepped into the breach. This was a brave decision, because it is the key position in any Credit Union and John Joe maybe hadn’t much experience of the financial management skills required.

But, we needn’t have worried : John Joe got stuck in immediately and history will testify to the wonderful success he made of it, to the extent that we can maybe boast that we are as efficient a branch as any around !

We invite all and sundry along next Sunday to show the community’s appreciation of two of its finest servants over two long lifetimes. Of course we wish them well and hope their wisdom will continue to be available whenever the occasion arises.

Go maire siad araon an cead !


Timmy Woulfe