Castlebar and Derryronayne, Swinford
Michael Rice, whose death took place at his home in Derryronayne, Swinford, was 67 years of age and the eighth of ten children of the late Jack and Judy Rice of Moneen, Castlebar.
After leaving secondary school he worked for Castlebar Urban Council, for Telecom and later set-up a taxi service in Swinford.
He married Ann Sheerin. And together they had six daughters, Deirdre, Aoife, Fiona, Aisling, Erin and Tara.
There were many sides to Michael. No amount of words could capture all in its entirety. He was strong-willed and sometimes overly assertive. He did things his way.
But beneath that crusted exterior beat a heart of gold. He was generous to a fault, ever ready to be of assistance to whoever called, do a good deed for whomever was in need.
It was his iron will that helped him through many crises in his life including the death of his daughter Tara at the age of three in a road accident at Pheasant Hill where they lived.
In facing those demons he demonstrated his real strength. No greater test of that resilience than in the decision of Ann and himself to pull plant in Pheasant Hill and move to Swinford where they bought a pub and ran it for many years before retiring to Derryronayne.
Michael spent some time working in Pinewood Studios in London, and he often talked of the affability of famous actors like Elizabeth Taylor, Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing whom he met.
The seed of his flair for the stage might have been sown during his spell on those film sets, although his innate musical talent manifested itself in his teenage years when he played the trumpet on local bands.
His singing was developed as a member of the local choral society. And at functions and family gatherings he regaled his audiences with his dulcet voice.
He could tell a good yarn too. His graphic description of the gander he and Ann acquired in Pheasant Hill held you in thrall.
The gander was fiercely aggressive and walked side by side with Michael while he was gardening. He was blind in one eye and on being let out in the morning, the gander would flap his wings fiercely, take off and crash into the same pole each time thirty yards away. The punch lines were in the telling.
Michael’s artistic nature fully blossomed in the many pantomimes in which he participated in Castlebar, often with leading parts. And he staged and directed many shows in Swinford, and produced plays for various drama groups.
He adored his family. There was nothing he would not do for his girls. And when ill health drained the energy from him in his final days the girls repaid that love with their full round-the-clock attention to him.
And when it came, that final curtain, it fell on the poignant scene of Ann and her daughters gathered around Michael’s deathbed singing to him a final farewell . . . the ‘Parting Glass’.
And when they had finished the final words of that old, traditional Scottish parting song, Michael drew his last breath.
Fr Chas Guthrie conducted the obsequies assisted by Fr John McCormack. Fr Chas and himself went to school together and were lifelong friends. Michael was a good friend and a straight talker, he said, and he recalled some of his favourite prayers.
His daughter, Aisling, thanked all who came to honour her dad. She thanked the medical staff and palliative care team; the night nurses, Peggy, Jean, her sister Dee, and neighbour Pat who was more of a round the circle nurse. And Martin and Ann who guided the family in her Dad’s final hour.
“Thanks to the clergy and musicians for a lovely Mass that Dad would have really enjoyed and especially Fr Chas for making us all laugh through the last week even though today you have to say goodbye to an old friend also.
“To Mam, for inspiring us with your dedication and care for Dad, most admirably for your courage and strength, you have been outstanding.
“Thank you Dad: For always helping us find the strength within ourselves to overcome any obstacles in life. For teaching us to stand up for what we believe in, to always stand our ground and to rarely back down, because as everybody knows, Dad wasn¹t always right but he was never wrong.
“For your ridiculous humour. Your friendship, for never expecting anything of us only that we be true to ourselves. For the music and the many singsongs that glued us all together. And the hugs I’ll miss them the most.”
The ceremony was enriched by the music arranged by Marina Rice Doherty with special contributions by James Garvey (tenor). Some airs were among Michael’s favourites: ‘Try to Remember’; ‘I watch the Sunrise’; ‘Only Our Rivers Run Free’ and ‘He Ain’t Heavy, He¹s My Brother’ by Erin Rice, the singers accompanied by Kathy Fahey (piano), Nacie Rice (flute) and Katie Lynn (violin).
Michael was buried alongside his daughter Tara in Castlebar and the graveside air was filled with the strains of another of his favourite melodies ‘The Rose’ played by Nacie and Kate. May his gentle soul rest in peace.