Westport mourns a much-loved resident
WESTPORT has lost one of the most valuable contributors to its Tidy Towns success, with the untimely passing last week of Tony Naughton.
The news that Tony had suddenly taken ill and died spread like a tremor through the disbelieving community of his adopted town, where the man who had words for everybody and a constant grin was revered at all levels of society.
A member of the outdoor staff of Westport Town Council since 1983, Tony Naughton was known by practically everybody in the town – a fact that was reflected by the huge crowds that attended his removal from Navin’s Funeral Home last Thursday and his funeral Mass on Friday morning, after which he was buried in Aughavale Cemetery.
Main celebrant at the Mass was Tony’s nephew, Fr Denis Carney, who is Administrator in the Westport Parish. He was joined on the altar by Fr Paddy Gill, Lecanvey, Fr Hughie Loftus, Tony’s neigbhbour from Tuam, Fr Stephen Farragher, Administrator in Tuam, Fr Ger Burns, PP Letterfrack, Fr Tod Nolan, Tuam and Westport, and Archdeacon Gary Hastings, Rector of Holy Trinity Church in Westport, who read the gospel. In a personal eulogy to his beloved uncle, Fr Carney said: “‘The Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect’ is the last line of today’s gospel, and not for the first time this line has come true for our family, as we are painfully aware.”
Fr Carney described Tony as ‘like a brother to me here in the parish during my 12 years in Westport’, and said that ‘the last thing on any of our minds a few days ago was that we would be burying Tony today’.
“We gather as a family, and I think it is fair to say as a community, in complete shock,” he said. “How could Tony, the man known by virtually everybody in the town, be taken from us so suddenly at the relatively young age of 59? It is difficult to understand, accept or believe.”
Tony Naughton was a Tuam ‘sham’ and a Galway man through and through. He moved to Westport after meeting Ursula (nee Crawford) at a dance in the TF in 1973. The couple married and moved to Ursula’s home on Castlebar Street in Westport in 1975, and next August they would have celebrated 34 years of constant companionship.
As part of his job Tony was lollipop man at Holy Trinity National School in Westport, and often brought sweets and lollipops to the children there on special occasions. At his funeral Mass the children from the school participated in the funeral liturgy and were also part of a guard of honour with members and staff of Westport Town Council.
In an interview with this newspaper last September, Tony outlined how he began working in the Textiles at the Demense, and later in Molloy’s Hardware Store on Shop Street for several years, before joining the Urban District Council’s outdoor staff in 1983. Beginning work at 6am every morning, Tony’s responsibility for the past 26 years was to get Westport town looking the way people have become accustomed to it being.
Tony and Ursula moved from Castlebar Street to Clew Bay Close in 2002, and he had planned to retire in June, when he reached the age of 60.
Tony was sports mad – particularly about GAA – and Fr Carney stated at his funeral that while Tony enjoyed a flutter on the horses and watching all sports, he could eat, drink and sleep football.
“The maroon and white of Galway was sacred to him and through thick and thin he followed them to all corners of the country – into the car and off with Tom Navin or Christy Hyland,” he said. Both these special friends of Tony’s brought gifts to the altar during his funeral Mass.
“Tony had a positive outlook on life,” Fr Carney continued, “and gave of his best to living it. As we gather here today saying farewell to him we can be confident that he is with the Lord who in today’s gospel says ‘happy are those servants if the master finds them ready’. Tony was ready, he lived the gospel message of love of God and neighbour.”
In his interview last year, Tony spoke of the changes that had taken place in Westport over the years and of the loss of his many ‘bigger than life’ friends with whom he used to sit along The Mall chatting every day. The plethora of friends he has left behind are now certain that he has joined these in another place, where they can chat for eternity.
“They never gave me the freedom of Westport yet,” Tony joked at the time, “and I’m still waiting to be formally declared a Covie, but maybe some day I’ll be inducted to the Covie Hall of Fame!”
He may not have known it before his untimely passing last week, but Tony Naughton’s status in this exclusive club was already assured.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam uasal.
The AGM of the Westport Tidy Towns Committee was adjourned last Friday as a mark of respect to the late Tony Naughton. It has now been re-fixed for The Wyatt Hotel on Thursday, January 29, at 8pm
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