We laid Pat Ruane to rest on the slope above Lough Lannagh on a sunny May Saturday. It was an apt place, and an apt time of year, for a master angler. Below us, the dappled lake stretched away to Bilberry and Islandeady. And was May not the month most beloved of fishermen, when the angling fraternity would await as one to hear that the Mayfly was up and it was time to hasten to Carra?
But for Pat Ruane, May had darker connotations, for it was on a May morning in 1944 that, as a babe of 18 months, he had been thrown to safety from the burning inferno of his home in Kiltimagh into a rescuer’s arms. It was a fire which wiped out his entire family – both his parents, his two brothers and a sister – and three members of his father’s staff. Eight people lost their lives that morning; only Pat and his aunt, Peggy Byrne, survived the holocaust.
And so Pat came to Castlebar to be raised by his cousins, the Lally family, in Linenhall Street. Even from a young age, Pat had the qualities of an even temper and a quiet tolerance, with an obdurate streak which manifested itself when he was in the right, as he usually was. He was the first proud owner of a pellet gun, which he wielded with considerable skill, and row upon row of tin cans would go spinning off the back wall as he honed his accuracy, while the local feline population learned to take precautionary cover.
He was also something of a craftsman, with a keen eye for design and structure. His youthful products included a soapbox – much in vogue at the time – with which he competed in a famous soap box derby down James Street in Westport. His toboggan was the envy of all other enthusiasts when winter snows beckoned us to career down the slopes of Jacko’s field, and with John Williams, he constructed a timber and fibre glass boat which saw service on many of the county’s waterways.
In his teens, Pat had been persuaded, albeit reluctantly, to take part in a number of stage productions by Castlebar Players, but any thespian leanings were soon overtaken by his dedication to the Connaught Karting Club. As founder secretary of this, the first such club in the province, it fell to Pat to deal with the myriad duties of organising karting races through the streets, events which attracted top drivers from all over Ireland, including the famed Rosemary Smyth. Later would come the purchase of the club’s purpose built racing track at Breaffy, a venture which eventually fell foul of lack of popular support and of distance from the town.
But it was as a dedicated angler that Pat Ruane will be most remembered, and it was fitting that his piscatorial colleagues provided the guard of honour for his funeral. He was an expertfisherman, acknowledged as such by his peers, and there was not a lake or river in the region which he was not familiar with.
The last few years had not been kind to Pat in terms of health and mobility but, true to character, he was never heard to complain. Ever courteous and innately polite, he would turn the conversation to the well being of the enquirer rather than dwell on his own ailments.
He will be sadly missed by Mary, his devoted wife, with whom he would have celebrated 50 years of marriage this August; by his children Maire and Niamh, Jim and Colin; and by his extended family. But they will, too, share happy memories of a husband, father and grandfather who found so much comfort and warmth in the family life which cruel fate had sought to deprive him of all those years before.