A sad week for Castlebar
It was a tough week for a lot of the ‘oul stock’ in Castlebar with the passing of three legends.
Tony McHugh, Mick Ruane and Donie Murphy all made huge contributions to the town in their own way and the death of the three in the space of less than 48 hours between last Thursday and Saturday left Castlebar reeling.
There was an emptiness about the place last weekend. The town may have grown immeasurably in recent years and some might feel it lost a lot of its sense of community as a consequence.
But you couldn’t but notice the palpable sense of loss about the place if you walked through town on Saturday and Sunday. The loss of these three men couldn’t not leave a huge cloud of sorrow and sadness over the town.
Tony McHugh’s contribution to his hometown was nothing short of seismic.
I remember well visiting Seanie Kilcoyne’s green fields as a young fella. You could leave the old Dunnes Stores car park and step onto green pasture around about where the current main entrance to the drapery of Dunnes Stores is.
No Tesco, no Aldi, no McDonald’s, no Argos etc. Just green fields all the way to the old graveyard (there was no ring road either). That wasn’t too many years ago.
No man can take more credit than Tony McHugh for the fantastic development and modernisation of this part of town. Tony, together with his business partner James McTigue, saw the potential that Castlebar had and much of the development their companies undertook would be a fitting legacy for any man.
But there was more than that. Tony McHugh wasn’t, as Fr Declan Carroll said at his Mass, a man to ‘hoard’ his money. Castlebar Mitchels saw the benefit of his kind patronage as did Mayo GAA and various charitable organisations.
Patients of the Sacred Heart Hospital, formerly the County Home, were visited by Tony every week where he would arrive with hundreds of newspapers and go around to each ward with a kind word and paper for everyone.
There are countless other examples which illustrate the man Tony was - like the car park owned by Tony at the rear of Paddy Powers, which he never charged for although it could make a fine return.
Mick Ruane, though not a native of Castlebar, has long since become absorbed as a true citizen of the town. He was a great servant of the Mitchels, long after his illustrious club and county playing career ended.
He was a fixture at virtually every Mayo game, even after illness took hold and was, as Seán Rice succinctly puts it in our sport section, a ‘great old Gael’.
So, too, was Donie Murphy. Like Mick Ruane he was not a native of Castlebar, but the vigour with which the Kerryman threw himself into the Mitchels club will be remembered for a long time.