It just dawned on me now as I was preparing this piece for dispatch that ‘Duke’ was in the bank before Neil was on the moon.
Donal O’Connor stepped over the threshold of the local branch of the Bank of Ireland as a porter in May 1969. This was a full two months before Neil Armstrong’s ‘one small step for man’ announcement from another institution in our lives in July of the same year.
Bad Moon Rising, by Creedence Clearwater Revival, Get Back by The Beatles and The Boxer by Simon and Garfunkel were all the go and in the charts at the time. And the only basketball ring in town was at the back of St. Mary’s Parish Hall and only the winners got trophies then.
The Duke was then emerging as a community leader and that backyard at St. Mary’s was central to his creativity. The Christmas blitz would soon follow; fittingly, that too is facing into its 45th season. The rest is his story.
Former colleagues came from all parts of the country on a recent Friday night to see ‘The Duke’ off into retirement after nearly half a decade at No. 44 Main Street.
However it wasn’t the first time in a long career in the local limelight that ‘The Duke’ was caught off guard. Have a look at the black & white photographs in the accompanying collection. They’re of a special night at Woodies Nite Spot in Tubbermaing and on the occasion of his ‘This is Your Life’ tribute.
Donal’s former B of I colleague and still firm friend, John Pender put the following piece on paper on the night of the party at the River Island Hotel.
“Donal ‘Duke’ O’Connor joined the Bank of Ireland in Castleisland in May of 1969. He has just retired after 45 years of service to that institution. He was always a loyal and conscientious colleague and was the best PRO the bank ever had in the district. Nothing was too much trouble for him.
As everyone knows he always was and still is very involved in his local community. Donal was trainer and panel member of the Castleisland Desmonds football team that won the All-Ireland Club Championship in 1985. He is a founder member and present day tournament director of the annual Christmas Basketball Blitz.
His has been a success story at each and every sport he has put his mind to: Golf; Pitch and Putt; Squash; Badminton and the afore mentioned Gaelic Football.
Those of his many colleagues who passed through the doors of the bank down through the years and who could make it to Castleisland for his surprise retirement party, joined him in a night of chat and reminiscence at the River Island Hotel.
All there joined in wishing him a happy and healthy retirement. They also sent their best wishes to his wife Anne – who was unavoidably absent on the occasion – their daughters: Gráinne, Fiona and Aisling and their beloved grand-daughter, Caoimhe.”
P.S.: If anyone is feeling brave enough I’d like to get the names of the friends and colleagues in the photograph here. They can add them to the comment section below.