Farewell to you, last Wren Boy,
You blessed my home today,
You played and drank my whiskey
And went upon your way.
The words of Listowel writer Bryan MacMahon from his poem The Last Wren Boy ring true as we lay down another of our community, Eugene Owens. A native of south Sligo, Eugene’s life was bound up in Mayo. Aughavale, Westport is his resting place, under the embracing shadow of dear Croagh Patrick.
His sudden death last week caused deep shock to all who knew him. His ever-present smile was his calling card. He was the Minister for Smiles, gregarious and ebullient. Politically astute, he was always ready to defend Fianna Fáil and a good row was assured if you were in the form! He was tough but never hard and always displayed the huge soft centre that was his gentle heart. He was generous and kind.
Eugene loved the wildlife in his new Cultrain home. He enjoyed the dance of the hedgehogs, foxes, rabbits and hares. Birdsong was his favourite symphony. He listened as he read, “Come away O human child! To the waters and the wild.”
He loved food and wine, and was a great chef and wonderful sommelier. He was a brilliant baker and a dab hand at apple jelly! His polytunnel was a blessing. He sowed, he harvested, he washed, he prepared, he cooked, he ate and he shared – always with family and friends. He was the consummate host. Eucharist comes in many forms as does a table become an altar.
He was a competent writer and self-published two books, The Best Laid Schemes and Mary D, with several launches, including Westport, Listowel and Dublin. A third book was in gestation. Eugene loved books and they were treated with respect and honoured in his home, part of the family. He was widely read and had a deep love of Irish writing.
He was a linguist who had beautiful Irish which he loved to speak. He was also a Francophile, loved all things French and European and counted French and Dutch amongst his dearest friends.
He wasn’t exactly a mermaid or even Neptune but he loved sailing! He sailed whenever and wherever with whomever he could. His good friend Matt Molloy enjoyed many a maritime trip with Eugene. And he loved fishing, and like every fisherman and woman he loved the pull on the line – “Something’s on!” And there was the one that got away!
Eugene lived, moved and breathed music. This was the creative Eugene Owens at his best. The bass clef and treble clef kept him in balance. He was a singer, songwriter, performer and musician of note. St Francis said, ‘Whoever sings prays twice.’ That makes Eugene a saint – who’d ever have thought!
Self taught, he played in college and was in several groups. He shared his music and passed it on. He taught hundreds of children – the flute, guitar and prepared marching bands for St Patrick’s Day parades. He loved a music session, to play and listen. He was finely tuned and always ready, willing and able to ‘say a song,’ abair amhráin. In Covie cant, he was a rum chanter!
Family was central to Eugene. He doted on his beloved wife Myra; his daughter Úna and her daughter Jasmine; his daughter Fran, her husband Max and their son Zaac and daughter Laila; brothers Seán and Noel and their families; Eugene’s extended family; and his ‘liquorice allsorts’ of friends. Eugene, in his magnificent generosity, also treated us as family. He was a great friend to all. “A faithful friend is a sure shelter, whoever finds one has found a rare treasure.” (Sir. 6:14) His family and friends will miss Eugene Owens.
Byran MacMahon has the last word:
“In the time of adjusting to loss we grieve that in the greyness of twilight never again will the walls of our town re-echo to his laughter that called us out of doors as surely as a peal of bells … Those who knew him require no touchstone to recall him; those who did not know him can never have him explained to them.”
Go ndéana Dia trócaire ar a anam dílis.