It was Con Houlihan who revived, for yet another generation, the Thomas Hardy line: ‘At the graveside of even the humblest man you see his life as dramatic.’
The late Jimmy Hayes was a humble man whose story of service to his family and his country qualified for the dramatic category of Hardy’s always acute observations.
His colleagues in the Post 2 Irish United Nations Veterans’ Association gave him a fine and honourable send-off with guards of honour over both days from the funeral home to St. John’s Cemetery.
On Missions Overseas
“When a famous singer, a politician, a footballer and the likes dies, they are talked about on television, the radio and newspapers…when a soldier dies, a person who has taken an oath to serve their country and willing to put themselves in danger at home on missions overseas, little is made mention of that soldier,” said John Wade secretary of the Post 2 Irish United Nations Veterans Association (IUNVA) at the funeral of the Castleisland man on Thursday.
Mr. Wade’s fitting farewell contribution was preceded by a family composed eulogy which filled in the aspects of Jimmy’s life which remained beyond all but his close family circle.
Eulogy read by Marie Kerley-Higgins
It is my great honour and privilege to speak these words prepared fondly from many cherished memories of Jimmy.
Jimmy – A Reflection
Jimmy was born in 1949 to his adoring parents Betty and Michael Hayes at home in the Pound Road, Castleisland.
In 1956, the family moved to 21 Desmonds Avenue. He was one of eight siblings, some of whom join us today and some of whom have gone to their eternal rest before us – R.I.P.
Farm Labourer to Baker
Jimmy left school and began working at the young age of 13 years old as a farm labourer. Moving on then to work at Brownes’s Bakery.
In 1970, Jimmy joined the Irish Army, completing his training in Clonmel and began his commencement as a three-star private.
Jimmy was based in Collins Barracks, in Cork and then served time in Longford doing border duty.
UN Duty in Cyprus
He spent six months overseas with the United Nations Peace Keeping Force in Cyprus. Jimmy was immensely proud of his army service, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather before him.
After returning home from Cyprus, Jimmy was approached by Danny Nelligan while he and his good friend Donie King were ‘stationary’ against the wall of Maria’s Corner – pronounced locally as Mariah’s.’
Danny told Jimmy that a position as a baker was available at Nelligan’s Bakery. Jimmy took the position and worked there for over 40 years.
Jimmy and Martina
During his time as a loyal and hardworking baker, a work colleague dared Jimmy and the ‘fair’ Martina to go on a date.
Their first of many happy outings started at the snug of Tangney’s Bar. They had a long, happy and loving marriage with five children and nine grandchildren.
Jimmy’s passion was going for his daily walks around the length and breath of the roads in the Castleisland and surrounding areas, often accompanied by his daughter Catherine and their loyal dogs, ending their journey at Mariah’s Corner.
Jimmy Hayes, UN Peace Keeper by John Wade
Jimmy left the defence forces after three years of service and his last unit was the 4th Infantry Battalion in Collins Barracks, Cork.
The 4th Infantry Battalion was founded around 90 years ago, but has now, like so many units throughout the land, it has been formally stood down.
A Magnificent Contribution
At the stand-down of the 4th Infantry Battalion, the then Cork’s Lord Mayor, Councillor John Buttimer (FG), said the unit had made ‘a magnificent contribution to Cork and Irish life as well as the cause of World peace.’
“It had,” he said, “provided security for the visits of US Presidents John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, and had almost four decades of border security operations.”
Ronald Regan said, “Some people live an entire lifetime and wonder if they have made a difference in the world…a veteran doesn’t have that problem.”
UN Service Medal
The 4th Infantry Battalion also contributed soldiers to every Irish UN peacekeeping mission since 1960 and Jimmy was one of those who served in the UN mission in Cyprus with the 20th Infantry Group from April 1971 to November of 1971 as part of an 11-man 81mm Mortar Section.
He proudly received his UN service medal on the 20th July that year.
Valued Member of IUNVA
He became a valued member of our own Post 2 of IUNVA always attending our meetings willing to help when we did our Flag Day collections.
Jimmy was always a great comrade and so proud of his service to Ireland.
When a famous singer, a politician, a footballer and the likes dies, they are talked about on television, the radio and newspapers…when a soldier dies, a person who has taken an oath to serve their country and willing to put themselves in danger at home on missions overseas, little is made mention of that soldier.
That leads me to pass on these final words:
I was that which others did not want to be.
I went where others feared to go
And did that which others failed to do.
I asked nothing from those who gave nothing,
And reluctantly accepted the thought of eternal loneliness…
Should I fail.
I have seen the face of terror,
Felt the stinging cold of fear
And enjoyed the sweet taste of a moment’s love.
I have cried, pained and hoped…
But most of all I have lived times that others say were best forgotten.
At least someday, I will be able to say that I was proud of what I was…
Jimmy, you served your county well…you went to other lands to defend and give hope to those who couldn’t defend themselves.
Your comrades in the Irish United Nations Veterans Association and your country. Thank you for your service.
Your duty is now done – Rest in Peace, Soldier.”