On April 30, a dark cloud descended on the village of Thornhill, Murrisk, as Johnny O’Toole passed on to his eternal reward. Even though for a month beforehand Johnny had been diagnosed with an illness, nevertheless his passing came as a surprise and was the cause of great sadness.
Johnny was the kind of neighbour we all would love to have or even aspire to being ourselves. He was kind, thoughtful and extremely generous, always ready to help out with a handshake and a friendly smile on his face. His interest in his neighbours was inspiring at times, especially the elderly or the sick whom he always made time to visit or help out if needed.
The memories I had of Johnny were of his blue tractor doing the work for all the local farmers, from cutting hay, bringing home the hay, bringing home the turf from the bog and ploughing the fields for the sowing of crops. No matter how busy Johnny was or how much work he had to do for the locals, he always had time to chat to the children and he always looked out for people who were vulnerable.
Another memory I have of Johnny was his green Morris Minor car. If a journey was to be made, Johnny would be asked to drive. I also remember when television came out, a group of us children would go to O’Toole’s on a Friday night to watch TV. We were always welcome and if the dinner or supper was being served the visitors were always welcome to share the food. Family, friends and neighbours were the centre of his life and he always enjoyed their company. On Sundays, Johnny and his neighbours most of whom have now gone to God, would gather after Mass to discuss the week’s news.
Not everyone had machinery in those days so Johnny was hired by the locals and all he ever charged did not put diesel in his tractor. Then when farmers began to buy their own machinery, Johnny used to do up old tractors and sell them to whoever required them. He could do anything with machinery. He could take a tractor apart and put it together again. He drove lorries all over the county and further afield, for a local wholesaler. He earned a living anywhere he could get work.
He was married to Sal (nee Power) from Ballingarry, Tipperary and her passing had a big impact on him. He carried on with the support of his family who were so close to him. Johnny loved to listen to Midwest Radio, especially the Michael Commins Show on Wednesday and Sunday nights and if ‘Tipperary So Far Away’ was played, there would be a smile and a tear.
Heaven must be a better place from Johnny’s arrival and when his legion of friends arrive at the golden gates, he will be there with a big smile and handshake to greet all and say ‘welcome home’.
On earth you toiled,
in heaven you rest
God bless you Johnny,
you were the best.
Remembering you always with love Johnny – your god-child, Mary.