The Late William ‘Billy’ O’Brien, St. John’s Park, Castleisland and Killarney, Co. Kerry

The Late Billy O’Brien (67) pictured against the blaze of floral colour on his pollinators’ patch at the Castleisland Community Garden site at the Crageens. ©Photograph: John Reidy  15-6-2019. 
Billy and Kay O’Brien, Killarney and Castleisland pictured at a Rod Stewart concert at Fitzgerald Stadium, Killarney in July 1991.

The death has occurred of William Billy O’Brien, No. 1 St. John’s Park, Castleisland, Co. Kerry and formerly of St. Brendan’s Terrace Killarney Co. Kerry and ex Rhyno Mills Castleisland.

Peacefully on December 23rd 2023 at University Hospital Kerry in the presence of his loving family.

Sadly missed by his loving wife Kay, his daughters Eileen, Mary, Catheriona and Noreen, sons-in-law Peter, James and Laurence, his adored grandchildren Evan, Kate, Padraig, Jessica, Rebecca, Aisling and Laura, brothers Robert and Christy, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, nephews, nieces, relatives, neighbours and many friends.

May His Gentle Soul Rest In Peace.

Billy’s Funeral Arrangements

Reposing at Tangney’s Funeral Home Church Street Castleisland on Tuesday evening, St. Stephen’s Day, from 4:30pm to 6pm.

Removal from his residence on Wednesday morning at 10:30am arriving to Castleisland Parish Church for Requiem Mass at 11am. Burial afterwards in St. John’s Cemetery Castleisland. The Mass will be live-streamed on

No flowers please. Donations in lieu to Palliative Care c/o Tangney’s Funeral Home

Date Published: Sunday, December 24th 2023. Date of Death: Saturday, December 23rd 2023.

Billy O’Brien – The Pollinator’s Friend

For those who knew Billy O’Brien on a day-to-day basis, that’s the sad news from Castleisland on this eve of Christmas Day 2023 and in the midst of this season of joy.

Billy died after a brief illness on Saturday night at Kerry University Hospital. The fact that his passing was expected for the past few days doesn’t lessen the feelings of loss and sadness in the least. Billy was a community man to the core of his being.

Billy and Jackie McGaley

The long plant and flower bedecked ditch at the entrance to his neighbourhood in St. John’s Park is testament to the hours of work that both he and the late Jackie McGaley invested in it in recent years.

In the course of those recent years, Billy was also well known to the, mainly vegetable, planting fraternity which frequented the Castleisland Community Garden at The Crageens from its introduction in the spring of 2016 up to the time of its closure in March 2022.

Cutting, Seeds and Compost

Billy would have received cuttings and seeds from neighbours and friends and he would ask after the progress of their compost bins in the interests of plans he had.

Maybe it is fitting now that all his planting creations and projects are in hibernation, but they’ll soon awaken as we’ve just passed the shortest day.

It was while he worked on the flower and plant section of the community garden that I asked Billy if I could do a few photographs of him with his work in full bloom in June 2019 and he let me work away.

The following is what I wrote and it may provide an insight into his modus operandi which I’ve been trying to explain above. May God be good to him

Billy’s Efforts Benefiting the Birds and the Bees

RTÉ Radio presenter, Freda McGough used to do a fascinating gardening programme called Planting Passions on Radio One some few years ago.

I haven’t heard it for a while but it made great radio and convinced the listener of the real and true magic of the medium.

Collecting, Planning and Planting

Freda spoke to people whose passion was collecting, planning, planting and mixing and matching colours and species.

I thought of her and her programme the other day as I spoke to Billy O’Brien at the patch of the Castleisland Community Garden which he has lovingly converted to a haven for butterflies and bees and pollinators in general.

The Common Threads

The common threads of Freda McGough’s interviews were the eclectic nature of the contents of the gardens she visited and toured with their creators.

Billy O’Brien’s collection follows this lovely, community involved pattern exactly.

He points to his beds of Oxeye Daisies, Sweet Williams – appropriately enough – and a typical cottage garden rose.

Flowers and Loads of Encouragement

The wild, Oxeye Daisies came from ‘Georgie’s field’ – Billy explained how he took the plants, roots and all from the Castleisland AFC pitch on Limerick Road; the ‘Sweet Williams’ came from Cathleen Reidy; Noreen Keane (RIP) and her gardening expert daughters, Linda and Lorraine supplied a huge variety of colour providing flowers and loads of encouragement to Billy and his project.

Encouragement, in spades, has also come from garden manager, Willie Reidy and, maybe more importantly, from the increasing numbers of butterflies and bees dipping in and lingering in this haven of colour and pollen.

Cottage Garden Roses

Cordal stone-mason, the late Moss Reidy donated cuttings of his generations old cottage garden roses and a request that they would be included in his memory.

They’re growing well in the shelter of the south facing remains of the old boundary wall of The Crageens.

People have donated: Foxglove; Marigolds; Comfrey; Poppies and Tansley and many more plants vital to our pollinators and crucial to our survival.

Green Fingered Gift

Billy, in turn, has donated his green fingered gift and his time, free of charge on a voluntary basis as he does his bit for all the pollinating species so much under pressure from the so called advances of man.

We’re living in an era in which awards are being handed out at the drop of a hat and for every possible excuse.

Here’s a man whose heart is in the right place and whose time and efforts, if reflected at government and big business levels, would leave the planet in a far better position than it is today.

I’ll rest my case.

Good luck Billy you did more than your share while you could.

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