Tawneyslinaun, Drummin, Westport
Tadhg Hastings was a proud family man, loyal hill sheep farmer, noted singer and songwriter, keen card player and committed republican. He spent all his life in his áit dhúchais, with his final eighteen months in St Brendan’s, Mulranny, where he was cherished and lovingly cared for.
His godson, Feargal Ó Béarra (son of Sally and Teddy), delivered the eulogy at his funeral Mass. The following is an extract: “…Tadhg was Tadhg. Tadhg was, in the words of Patrick Kavanagh, a man who ‘[...] lived in important places, times when great events were decided, who owned that half a rood of rock, a no-man’s land [...] till Homer’s ghost came whispering to his mind, and said: I made the Iliad from such a local thing. Gods make their own importance.’ Tadhg was one of our own. Tadhg was so much to so many of us: he was a wonderful father, a loyal brother, a fond uncle, a brother-in-law, a father-in-law, and a loving grandfather to John Óg, Megan, Lorna, Oran and Rosie, a grandfather who doted on his grandchildren, who took pride in their progress and achievements, who held them dearly in his heart…
Tadhg Ó hOistín was born on the March 3, 1928, in the house of his uncle, Seán Malone, in High Street, Westport. Seán Malone, along with is brother Willie, and their sister Mary – Tadhg’s mother – were active members of that illustrious generation of Irish women and men who strove for Irish freedom from the 1890s onwards. It was a movement that left its mark not only on the founding fathers and mothers of the Irish Free State but on the young Tadhg Hastings as he came of age in the early decades of the nascent Irish state.
Tadhg, like his brothers and sisters, came of age in 1950s Ireland. There is much talk, and rightly so, of the lost generation – those who left their native shore as victims of forced emigration – but there was also equally another lost generation – the lost generation that stayed at home or in some cases who had to stay at home. Tadhg was one of those … Tadhg Hastings, along with those others of his generation who did not end up emigrating to Dublin, England, or the USA, stayed at home. But rather than buckle to inertia, they stood fast and threw themselves into the newly founded Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, and into the old-established GAA, and into other community-based and community-empowering movements of the time, under the all-seeing eye of the Church of course! Tadhg Ó hOistín played a leading role in that …
Tadhg became a man of many occupations; he farmed the land of Tamhnaigh Slinneáin - the blade-shaped arable mountain patch, to which came his people, who had been forced to come shortly after the Great Famine, and which his father Michael Thady, grandson of Nóra Thaidhg and Michéal Bán Ó hOistín, - the latter a son of Micheál Mór Ó hOistín (the man that met the fairies!) - entrusted to Uncle Tadhg’s sure and able hands. Uncle Tadhg, in that sense, was the embodiment of our ancestral umbilical chord, as are his daughter Máire and son Fergus, and their children alike today.
He became a traveling salesman, selling calf nuts and sheep dip for a fair and equitable price to the farmers of south Mayo and further afield … He was a republican, a true old republican … a man who was arrested and held overnight for possession of not one, not two but six free range … eggs! He held a deep love of Gaelic games, indeed all games I am told and he took immense pride in the exploits of his late brother Liam in the red and green of his beloved Mayo. And of course, lest we forget Tadhg himself was an accomplished footballer…
We couldn’t speak of Uncle Tadhg, of Máire and Fergus and of the happy home they made in the cottage in the glen, without speaking of Aunty Marie and those two words ‘Aunty Marie’ speak for themselves …
We stand here today on hallowed ground. By that, I mean not only St Mary’s and its churchyard, surrounded by cnoc agus creagán, muing agus tamhnaigh; in the shadow of Sphinx and the Sheeffry Mountains – I mean this hallowed terrain, a hallowed place for us Hastings and others whose descendants have left this place, but who carry its ancestral DNA wherever they are. This is our Mecca, this is the spiritual home of the Hastings wider family, to which we gravitate in life and in death, where we come to rest - where space provides - Aunty Maura who spent her life in the States came home, where Seoirse is at peace with his mother Áine.
Tadhg was many things to many people. He was the strong athletic sheep farmer of our childhood, ere before the sands of age touched him. He was a crossword addict who was liable to ring you at a 11pm of a Tuesday night saying, ‘5 across ,myself and Pat Kelly can’t get it’; the shy but assured singer, the prize-winning composer of ballads whose musical compositions are now preserved in archives from Dublin to Boston; the loyal comrade and neighbour, the all-conquering card player – of a night; the uncle who would insist on watching Mart and Market while the radio blared in the background, a man who would insist on having Raidio na Galeachta and Midwest on at the same time – the good Lord having given him, after all, two ears and never having been a man for linguistic discrimination, and a third station if he could get a third one going; the man who would spend a good part of the day during a General Election compiling and collating his own tallies based on the radio commentaries, an addict of the cut and thrust of politics of every hue; the man who would retire to the bedroom of a Sunday afternoon with his pipe to devour the newspapers, who would have read for Ireland, who would spend eternity reading Westerns despite stretching the resources of the Mayo County Library to the brink; the man who commented on hearing Thin Lizzy’s Emerald – ‘It’s not a bad song’; a man who would talk like a combine harvester if you just got him going … if you just got him going – that was Uncle Tadhg – a lion of a man as soon as you got him going.
Tadhg has left a legacy that may be undervalued in today’s world; kind heartedness, generosity, gentleness, resilience, unerring love for family and culture, but above all a true understanding of what it really means to be human, to be a Christian. We hope and pray that our generation can inherit and hold dear his beautiful characteristics and the values that guided him throughout his life, all these traits that Tadhg generously shared with us. Séamus Deane wrote: ‘As the sea ebbs so my youth recedes, no matter how I grieve my body concedes, it is no more than food for the sea. Now, this hood of age that time leaves on my sunken frame, covers but a wraith.’
Tadhg Hastings was my godfather; Tadhg Hastings was a good man. He deeply understood, appreciated, cherished and loved the fundamental values that he inherited from his family, his history and his past. These same values and principles created the bedrock which would guide his living in word and deed, that would guide his way of life.
Values that were constants in his life, values that were the fabric of his being. Values he applied in a quiet but yet unwavering manner. Tadhg Hastings touched the lives of so many others. He was a good husband, a good father, a good brother, a good uncle, a good friend, a good neighbour, a composer of note, a wonderful singer, a true republican.
In conclusion, let us pause and think of the following: ‘There is indeed a thing more powerful than Death – it is the ever-living presence of the dead in the memory of the living.’ (Jean d’Ormesson)
And with that in mind, let us take a moment to recall a defining moment that is dear and personal to you of your Tadhg Hastings. Let us hold that moment, and let that be your monument to Tadhg Ó hOistín, Tadhg Hastings. Tadhg was Tadhg. Tadhg was a man who ‘[...] lived in important places, times when great events were decided.’ Tadhg was one of our own, very much one of our own. Tadhg was so much to so many of us. Veritably, there will never be his likes again. Solas na bhflaitheas dá anam dílis.