He was always tall. Even as a young fellow Pat Dunning towered over us all. Some sight in short trousers. If he fell there was a lot of him to get cut and scraped! He received many war wounds. We were good friends, even then.
His gangly gait was most welcome in testosterone battles. He wasn’t someone who was pushed around easily in the schoolyard or football field. He had a competitive spirit that found expression in and through the team.
Back then, for some unknown reason, a group of us tried to adopt our fathers’ Christian names. Pat became Paddy, which was easy. He was forever Paddy to me. Me becoming Joe didn’t stick and Pat resorted to calling me Willie, as he did throughout his life. Mick Moran became Mick Andy.
My father and Willie Kelly (James Street) had the grazing of King’s Hill. We had a couple of cows while Willie used it for cattle he was moving on, as a cattle jobber. At one stage there was even a donkey there.
One summer’s evening Paddy Dunning and I decided to see if Ned was game for a donkey derby! Paddy, brave that he was, jumped on Ned’s back, his dangly legs almost touching the ground as he grinned from ear to ear!
It was not part of the plan when Ned decided to head downhill. Without a reins Paddy grabbed the mane as Ned speeded up. Unused to donkey-back and definitely unable to ride at speed Paddy was goggle-eyed with his mouth wide open in disbelief! There was no comfort as he felt Ned’s backbone pound into his backside as he held on for dear life.
Ned was obviously enjoying himself and decided to go bucking bronco! Paddy went flying through the air, hands and feet spreading in all directions! I was more than entertained, laughing loudly until I came up to him. He lay on the ground screaming in agony. I noticed that his wrist was a strange shape.
We rushed back home to the Octagon, nervous over what his mother Eileen might say. Not a woman to be messed with! Needless to say, like all mothers, she nursed him as she thanked me profusely for bringing him home after he ‘fell climbing over the wall in King’s Hill checking on MacNally’s cows’.
I spent a few years in Westport CBS secondary school before we joined up again in St Jarlath’s College, Tuam. In the bigger and more competitive pond he was still a faithful friend. Pat was a great footballer and a regular on the college senior team.
School life wasn’t all sweetness and light for him, but Pat Dunning stood tall. He was a brave man who always sought the truth. It was part of his DNA. He settled at home running the family business, which he did up to recently.
Some people will think of him as a man who shot from the hip. He did, but that was not the essence of who or what he was. When stories emerged about ‘customer care, Dunning style’ he defended his position with gusto. “Wouldn’t you do the same Willie?”
He had a huge heart and was generous to a fault. I used to slag him that he had a heart transplant because the first one was worn out from the good he did. And he did that in spades, always quietly, never looking for thanks or acknowledgement. Many people know the depth of his generosity.
He had a wicked sense of humour and could laugh at himself. He was loyal to the end, valued friendship and lived for his family, of whom he was immensely proud.
Jarlath’s boys came from everywhere to pay respects, including James Lavery (Tarbert), whose late brother John Boy was a classmate, close friend and fellow heart-transplant recipient.
Predeceased by his parents, Eileen and Paddy, and brother Martin, Pat will be sorely missed by all, especially his wife, Mary; children, Jonathan, Paul, Carl, Patrick, Eddie and Lisa; grandson, David; siblings, Geralyn and Cathal; family and friends.
Paddy, my friend, may angels guard thee agus go ndéana Dia trócaire ar d’anam.