There are occasions when one downs tools, stops in one’s tracks, and turns away from the planned route and onto the road less travelled. This happens when the death of a community member is announced.
I got a call yesterday afternoon and it changed the course of my day.
Mike Mitchell rang to ask if I knew that John Prendiville had died and that he was buried that morning.
I didn’t and that altered my plans for the day. I made tracks for Martin Curtin’s shop for a mass card and straight then for The Fountain Bar.
I hadn’t indulged in a session for months. If ever a full glass had to be held ceilingward in honour of a fallen soldier – this was it. I met several of the family members and had a great catch-up chat with the London based Timmy.
I’m also going to walk from Pound Road to Kilbanivane over the weekend as a mark of respect. I’ll pause outside Sheila’s and carry all the memories with me.
John and his late wife, Maureen were part of the amazing cast and crew of Sheila Prendiville’s Bar and Grocery from the early 1990s up to a few short years ago.
John’s party piece was in ‘rising’ Sheila. He’d land in the door and, for a few minutes, he’d stand with his back to the counter and to Sheila herself.
He’d wink to the long seat occupants and, unknown to him, Sheila would do likewise right behind his back.
He’d ask “what’s the porter like here today.” He’d go on to tell us that he just had the finest two pints of stout he had ever tasted in ‘The Hole in the Wall’ in Tralee and that he might just chance one here.
He’d then rummage in his pockets for change and count it from hand-to-hand and then, casual as you like, order a pint of stout.
“Watch this now,” he’d say with a backward glance as he put the – 20p or so short – price on the counter.
Sheila would take it as a matter of course and, on her way to the drawer, would shout “come back here you frigger. The acknowledgement of his audience was written all over our faces and the amazing cameo of the day was over.
They would then be thick-as-thieves, elbows on the counter and swopping the news of the day.
God be good to them all of but they lived life to the full. Himself and Maureen lived in Tralee at that time and John christened themselves as ‘Home and Away’ after a TV soap opera.
Maureen had a voice that, if trained, could have taken her well past the appreciative but limited crowd which Sheila’s could accommodate on any given week-day.
We got a highly respected, second opinion on one magical afternoon. Former priest, Joe Broderick got directions to Sheila’s one day. He was researching for his book Fall from Grace on the life of the amazing Bishop Eamonn Casey.
The late Mike Kenny and myself welcomed the stranger and decorated the counter in his honour.
We were only a pint or two into the afternoon when Maureen started to sing. ‘Jesus Christ did you ever hear Margaret Barry singing? Joe asked.
We did of course and we knew exactly what he meant. Maureen was kept going until well after the Angelus with liquid and vocal encouragement. Joe’s favourite I’m Nobody’s Child was repeated over-and-over for the afternoon and his pocket became well acquainted with his hand on the occasion.
The late Maureen, (nee Cashman) from Tralee, had a voice that had so many colours, depths and strands. I often thought it was like a vocalisation of Donegal tweed. She sang in her very own accent and every word got its due reverence and space in her delivery.
Her bow, always, was to lift her medium glass to the ceiling. May God be good to them all.
The rip.ie announcement read as follows:
The death has occurred of JOHN PRENDIVILLE
53 St. John’s Park, Castleisland, Kerry
JOHN, PEACEFULLY AT HIS RESIDENCE. BELOVED HUSBAND OF THE LATE MAUREEN. SADLY MISSED BY HIS LOVING FAMILY, TIMMY, MARY, HELEN, JOHN, DENIS, MICHAEL, MARGARET AND TERESA, ALL EXTENDED FAMILY RELATIVES AND FRIENDS.
REPOSING AT TANGNEY’S FUNERAL HOME CASTLEISLAND ON WEDNESDAY EVENING FROM 5PM TO 7PM FOLLOWED BY REMOVAL TO CASTLEISLAND PARISH CHURCH. REQUIEM MASS ON THURSDAY AT 11AM. BURIAL AFTERWARDS IN ST. JOHN’S CEMETERY, CASTLEISLAND.
MAY HE REST IN PEACE
Date Published: Monday 23rd February 2015. Date of Death: Monday 23rd February 2015