By Tom Aherne

Eileen O’Connor the Sacristan in St Mary’s Church in Carrigkerry has retired from her role after 22 years of dedicated and selfless service. Her winning smile, welcome and friendly presence will be sorely missed by all who pass through its elevated doors. She took over from the Quinn family Paddy, Mary, and John, who retired after giving approximately 30 years’ service between the three of them. The interior of the church was kept neat and tidy and was a credit to her professional approach to her duties.

The role of the Church Sacristan often goes unnoticed in a parish and the persons work may be taken for granted. They work side by side with the resident priests who acknowledge their valued and dedicated service. It is a 365 day a year job with no weekends off or annual holidays. The majority of the work is done behind the scenes, and out of sight of the public. It reminds me of the final two lines from the poem, If God should go on Strike:

We don’t care whom we hurt or harm to gain the things we like,

But what a mess we’d all be in if God should go on strike.

If the Sacristan went on strike the doors of the Church would remain closed and the Angelus Bell unrung.  They assist in the life cycle from birth to death and touch the lives of all sections of the congregation. They are there in joyful and sad times to lend their support to all and especially the priest whose work load has increased greatly since their numbers have decreased. Their yearly collection is scant reward for the unselfish and dedicated commitment to their local community. No pension follows the role unlike other professions that demand grossly inflated figures. Sacristans never make the national headlines but for me they are amongst the real unsung heroes of our country.

Fr Dan Lane parish priest in Ardagh/Carrigkerry was instrumental in securing Eileen’s service in 1994. She possessed all the right qualities to take on the demanding role, being outgoing, friendly and a people’s person whose social skills matched the job speck. She was living close to the Church following the family’s return from England in 1980.

Eileen had worked in a School canteen during her time in England and her work ethic was well known. It was a short term contract of six week’s but she fitted the role like a glove and weeks became years, as other priests came and went.  The priests that passed through included Fr Pat Mc Bride, Fr Michael Irwin, Fr Paddy Bowen, Fr Larry Madden, Fr Tim Curtin, and the present Fr Michael Noonan.

Eileen took immense pride in her work, and she was very particular about having everything correct and to detail. She looked after all the church cleaning, washing of cloths and altar decorations. She went above and beyond the call of duty using her own materials to cut down on costs.

She enjoyed many highlights during her term, including the visits of Bishop Magee, Murray, and Leahy, and the numerous visiting priests. She had a special fondness for Fr Phonsie Cullinan, who is now Bishop of Waterford and Lismore.

Eileen was at the forefront of the 125th Anniversary celebrations at Saint Mary’s Church in August 2003. Her welcoming face was a reassuring presence for clergy and the many people who attended.

Eileen will have more time to enjoy her favourite pastimes now, and her love and guidance for her grandchildren will further enrich their progress through life. She has her son Patrick for company and great friends to share her pastimes with.

Eileen enjoys her weekly trips to the Desmond Complex in Newcastle West, and the Tuesday Social Club in Ardagh. She is immersed in the traditional ways of enjoyment with music, singing and dancing close to her heart. Her late husband Sean was a very talented singer and dancer, and the family returned each Christmas to participate in the Wren.

On behalf of all associated with Saint Mary’s church I would like to thank Eileen and her family for 22 years of sincere and dedicated service. Eileen enjoy your well-deserved retirement, and good health and fortune. You will have extra time to watch Television, and to follow all the reality shows, and your favourite soccer team Manchester United. We will miss your friendly presence in the sacristy and the sunshine in your smile.

The following are the Lottery results from Peadar’s Bar Ardagh on Monday January 9. The numbers drawn were 2, 23, 26, 30, and there was no Jackpot winner. Congratulations to the five lucky dip winners who won €40 each. Teresa Downey Ardagh, Mount Plumbers, Broadford, Betty O’Connor, Carrigkerry, Michael Griffin, Kilscannell, Ardagh, and Niamh Daly Ardagh. Next week’s draw will be held at the Thatch Bar, and the Jackpot will be €12,000.

Carrig Celtic defeated Killeaney 2-1 in the Premier Division of the Desmond League on Sunday January 8. Seanie King and Padraig Mc Carthy scored their goals, to move them into the top half of the table. Carrig Celtic B lost 6-1 at home to Newcastle West B in Division 3, and Creeves Celtic had no match. In Division 1 of the Ladies League Kilcolman Rovers defeated Creeves Celtic 3-1 away and Carrig Celtic lost 8-0 at home to AK Utd. Ciara O’Donnell, Maureen Noonan, and Dora Bury scored for Rovers, and Sandra Larkin replied for Celtic.

Johnny McCarthy, Darragh Treacy, and Sean Mc Sweeney from Saint Kieran’s were members of the Limerick senior football team that defeated Clare by 2-13 to 2-9 in the Mc Grath Cup in Rhebogue, Limerick on Wednesday January 11. Johnny was full back, Darragh scored a goal, and Sean kicked four points, to give the team a great start to the year.

Saint Kieran’s Heritage Association held their 8th meeting on Wednesday January 11 in Ardagh Community Centre. Chairman John P O’Sullivan welcomed all and 27 people were present. The main item discussed was the Fenian Rising re-enactment fixed for March 5, and some fresh ideas for events and games, were aired for the Saturday and Sunday. The main reason for the weekend is to mark the 150th anniversary of the Fenian attack on Ardagh Barracks, and to give the village, which has seen a decline in recent years a boost. The Fenian Rising in 1867 was a major event in Irish history and Ardagh was one of the few where the people took action. It is also the only place that is not marked with a monument or plaque to show its involvement.

This will all change during the March weekend when a plaque will be unveiled and a re-enactment will be held. A festival of music song dance and merriment is being planned to tie in with the period of 150 years ago. Old style games, including churn rolling, horseshoe throwing, pitch and toss, bowley racing, and others, will be held along the main street. It is hoped to have demonstrations of Faction Fighting, horse shoeing, and forge work, and stands with old items in use at that time.  A pig on a spit will recreate the food taste of that time.

Sean Shields gave a demonstration of the clothes that were being worn by armed forces during the American civil war, to give people an idea of what the people who attacked and defended Ardagh Barracks were wearing. A war bayonet, and an old musket, and a local newly crafted pike head, was passed around for people to view and examine. People attending on March 5 are asked to wear suitable clothes from that period and prizes will be awarded for the most suitable dress. A Video will be done to recall the events for future generations to enjoy. A Pub Quiz will be held at Reens Bar, on Saturday February 4, to raise more funds for the weekend. The next meeting will be held on Wednesday January 18, at Ardagh Community Centre at 8pm, and all interested people are asked to attend.

Set dancing class in the Ballintemple Inn, Newcastle West each Tuesday from 8pm to 10pm. Set dance class in the Parish Hall Monagea, each Thursday from 8.30pm. Social dancing class in the Parish Hall Newcastle West each Monday from 8pm to 10pm. No partners are required and beginners are always welcome at all three venues.

A night of music song and dance featuring Wrenboys from Carrigkerry and Killeedy takes place on Friday night January 27 in Halla Ìde Naofa Raheenagh agus tosnù 8:30pm. Note all proceeds going to the newly renovated Dromcollogher and District Respite Care Centre. The centre is been renovated at a cost of €140,000 so all support is essential for this event, and on the night special guests will also perform from the Sliabh Luachra area including Ella Marie O’Dwyer.

Dromcollogher and District Respite Care Centre is a home from home and serves all surrounding communities, caring for the aged infirm, convalescing, the sick and giving a break to the career. To date 5,000 people have crossed the threshold and services will resume when the major renovation works are completed in February. In the meanwhile please support the upcoming concert with tickets on sale at Keating’s in Raheenagh also Michael Cunningham’s shop for ACME blinds Maiden Street Newcastle West and Sr. Bridie on 087-9354090.