Louisburgh stunned by tragic death of Alan Durkan
22-year-old had just returned to Australia
THE family of Louisburgh man Alan Durkan have spoken of their devastation and heartbreak following his death in a single vehicle crash in Australia at the weekend. Alan, who turned 22 last January, had been travelling from the vineyard where he lived and worked into the nearby town of Penola when tragedy struck around 8.30pm on Saturday evening (10.30am Irish time).
The exact circumstances of his death are unclear but local authorities in South Australia believe that the vehicle in which he was the driver and sole occupant veered off or left the gravel road on which he was travelling, and struck a tree before flipping over. Alan (pictured) lived some eight kilometers from the rural town of Penola and would regularly have travelled on the three kilometer gravel road where he lost his life, which linked his vineyard home with the main road leading to the town.
Speaking in their home yesterday, and surrounded by mementos of Alan, his parents Andy and Janet Durkan, along with Alan’s twin brother James, spoke of their fond memories of a ‘loveable rogue’.
“He was very outgoing, shyness was not one of his traits, that’s for sure,” said Andy, recalling story after story to illustrate his late son’s renowned extrovert and friendly personality. “Alan didn’t do problems, he didn’t allow them, he was always positive, a real free spirit, who lived a good life until the very end.”
In between the steady stream of shell-shocked visitors to the family’s red brick bungalow on the Westport Road just outside Louisburgh, Janet spoke of how Alan always wanted ‘the best of everything’. “We used to laugh at him, he always had to look immaculate, the best clothes, even when he got into surfing he wanted the best surf board, not that it got much use,” she fondly remembered.
Alan attended primary school in Louisburgh, and later secondary school in Sancta Maria College in the town, where he completed his Leaving Cert in 2009. He later attended IT Sligo studying Business and Marketing, and was on a break from his studies when he travelled to Australia on March 14, 2012. He spent his first stint in Queensland in a town called Goondiwendi, where he also worked on farms (seasonal work) true to his love of the great outdoors, before returning home to Louisburgh at Christmas.
Alan returned to Australia on January 6 this year, and had been working in a vineyard and winery near Penola, which is located just inside the South Australian border from Victoria, and approximately half way between the capital cities of both states - Adelaide and Melbourne. He was learning the operational side of that business and was hoping to go on to work in sales for the same company, possibly in Melbourne, where his cousin Jonathan, also from Louisburgh, is based. The two cousins were best friends and it was Jonathan who got the call on Saturday following Alan’s accident, as he was listed as his cousin’s next of kin. It was through Jonathan, and his father John and brother Tommy in Louisburgh, that the sad news was relayed back to Alan’s family around 10pm on Saturday night, a visit, according to Andy, that no family member ever wants to make or receive.
Alan was in the process of having his second Australian visa issued, and though he was not under any requirement to continue with seasonal work on farms, having already completed the statutory period of this in Queensland, he loved the location and lifestyle and was very content to do so.
Alan played GAA for Louisburgh and Sancta Maria College, and later rugby for Westport and Sligo IT. He loved his home place and growing up he could rarely be found to help out in his family’s grocery business, as according to his mother, he lived by the tide table and every opportunity he could get he was on the pier at Old Head or Carramore, diving in and having fun.
The Durkans are one of the Louisburgh area’s best-known families, having owned and operated a grocery business on the town’s Main Street since the 1950’s. Andy and Janet took over the running of the business several years ago from Andy’s parents, who are now deceased, but Andy is also very well-known from his career in Allergan Pharmaceuticals, where he worked in a personnel management role for 28 years. Janet, a native of Dublin, also worked there for a period. In a close-knit community like Louisburgh, the sense of grief was palpable over the weekend, and Andy and Janet were anxious to thank everybody for their unwavering support since Saturday.
No funeral plans yet
There are no plans for Alan’s funeral as of yet. A post-mortem examination was due to take place on his body yesterday (Monday) and his cousin Jonathan will then travel from Melbourne to take care of the formalities and repatriate Alan on what will be his final journey home. Memorial Masses for Alan have been organised within the Irish communities in Sydney and in St Kilda, the beachside suburb favoured by thousands of Irish people in Melbourne.
“Jonathan has been brilliant,” said Andy. “In terms of support he has made everything much easier for us as he is taking care of things in Australia, and Alan won’t be alone. His brother Tommy is doing everything in terms of liaising on this side and has been a fantastic support for us. Alan and James looked up to Tommy and Jonathan all their lives, they loved the lads and the lads used to look after them growing up.”
“The lads living with Jonathan in Melbourne - Rory O’Malley from Louisburgh and Vinny Ryan from Kilmeena - have been great support for him and we are hugely grateful to them too,” added Andy.
“Alan was one happy lad, very relaxed about life, and he had so many friends, that was just the way he was with people, he was friendly towards everyone. Everything was ‘cool beans’ that was his saying,” Janet recalled. “Every text and phone call from him were signed off with ‘cool beans’, nothing stressed him out,” she added, as Andy scrolled through photograph after photograph on his phone that Alan had sent home, showing a young, fit and healthy man in his prime, living out his dreams on the other side of the world.
Sadly, those dreams came to an end last weekend, and the Durkan family and their many friends - both in the Louisburgh community and beyond - face some difficult times ahead.
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