The Late Leo Suijkerbuijk, Breahig, Castleisland and late of Holland

Leo Suijkerbuijk in his workshop in Breahig with his find of a ‘Butter Box’ over mantle which, he was sure, was made locally. Inset the front of the interesting piece. ©Photograph: John Reidy 5-4-2012
Leo Suijkerbuijk pictured with some of his collection of butter boxes during the National Heritage Week in Castleisland at Browne’s Bar in August 2014. ©Photograph: John Reidy 24-8-2014
Leo’s final request to his friend, Johnny Cahill was to have this simple box made from native wood in which he’ll be buried in Currow tomorrow at 3pm. The picture shows the box coming together earlier today in Dooneen. ©Photograph: John Reidy 22-1-2021

The death occurred last week of Leo Suijkerbuijk, (60) Breahig, Castleisland and late of Holland.

It was a case of the Dutchman, going Irish as Leo came to terms with our habits and lifestyles and the traditions of the area he now called home.

Leo, a civil engineer, worked in some of the biggest projects in his own country and in neighbouring Belgium.

Settled in Castleisland in 2002

He settled into life in Castleisland in 2002 and grappled with avenues of understanding to help him get a grip on the area through its culture and history.

A collector by nature, and following the habit of a lifetime, he found a way to figure us out.

He told me during a visit to his workshop that he was often fascinated, sometimes horrified by our lack of regard for the furniture of our fathers and grandfathers.

Rescued, Researched and Restored

Leo has collected, rescued, researched and restored so many bits of old furniture from the area that it was getting to the point where he had to find a place to display at least some of the finer pieces.

“I got this interest in collecting from my grandfather in Holland years ago and I use it here in Castleisland to ‘feel the history’ attached to the pieces and the place itself,” Leo told me after summoning me to photograph the history revealed by his latest find.

Furniture and Kitchen Tools

“My big interest is in how people lived – what type of furniture and kitchen tools they used,” said Leo.

His background has allowed Leo to turn his hand to the restoration of these pieces he finds scattered throughout the locality.

The latest piece is a simple over-mantle from a cottage in the area. It was obviously made by an enthusiastic handyman rather than by a tradesman.

Made From Butter Boxes

What was interesting is that it was made almost entirely from butter boxes with the name of the well known and remembered merchants, T.S. Prendiville, Castle Island indelibly stamped on the back.

Leo hoped that someone out there would probably know the man who made the item in question and he was keen to find out.

Many Strings to His Bow

There were many strings to Leo’s bow as he staged an exhibition of cane work, basket and eel-trap making during National Heritage Week in 2014 as he was delving more into the traditions of his adopted people and their culture.

A private family funeral will take place for Leo on Saturday to St. Michael’s Cemetery, Currow at 3pm.

Native Timber Box

As a testament to his taking to the locality, Leo’s final request to his friend, Johnny Cahill of Dooneen Sawmills was that he’d make a plain, native timber box in which he would be buried in Currow  on Saturday.

His request was granted as Johnny and local craftsman, Joe Sheehy went to work as soon as they got the nod from undertaker Bernard Tangney.

Long Journey Home

They delivered well before Bernard took him on his final trip on Saturday afternoon.

With Bernard directing, Leo was taken on the last leg of his long journey home through the gates of St. Michael’s Cemetery, Killeentierna.

On that journey he was flanked by his friends: Brian Walsh, Tim McCarthy, John Clifford, and Johnny Cahill.

May God rest him.

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