Thousands of feet stood and shuffled along the few hundred yards of road between the Ballybunion turn-off and O’Carrolls Funeral Home in Listowel as Sunday evening turned to night. There was much more time spent standing than shuffling.
They were there from the worlds of politics, racing, writing and from that of Gaelic Football and the odd hurler from Kilkenny.
Well-known faces from all of these colliding worlds edging their way along the road on a fine autumnal evening to pay their respects to the late Mary Keane and to offer their sympathies to her family members.
Their hands must have been numb on Monday morning and more of the same, well meaning, pressing of the flesh before them.
Among the well known faces were the neighbours and friends of Mary O’Connor – one of ‘The Pensioners’ from Ahaneboy – close enough to half way between Knocknagoshel and Castleisland – but near enough to The Mall for her to be claimed as one of theirs.
Knocknagoshel and Castleisland were both very well represented on Sunday evening. You could tell by the volume of traffic on the mountain road that an event of great significance was running its course in Listowel.
The funeral was set to be down at St. Mary’s Parish Church at 7pm but the sympathisers were still shuffling away at 9pm and after.
I asked a man I met there what time the funeral left for the church and he replied “I couldn’t tell you but the yard light was on outside the funeral home for a good while before it left.”
Mary Keane’s presence on the streets of Listowel will be missed. I recall seeing her several times on her way to mass and she always gave the sculpture of John B a pat as she passed it by. I worked on a floor of a building which overlooked the saluting monument for a few years.
She would probably call him an awful devil – or something equally harmless, but her son Billy had the town talking on Sunday evening when he posted a notice on the board outside John B’s
Mary Is Off Tonight – it simply said. “That’s Billy for you,” said two local men who passed as I snapped the sign outside one of Ireland’s most famous pubs.
It slipped my mind until I revisited the book – John B – The Real Keane – that John B actually proposed to Mary here in Castleisland. It partly explains, apart from the charm of the place, why they both had a genuine grá for the town. May God be good to both of them.