Crumpaun, Keel, Achill
December 24th will mark the first anniversary of the death of Michael John Cafferkey.
Michael John was so well known both on Achill Island and plenty of other places far and wide. He is best remembered for his outgoing personality and his contagious sense of humour, and anyone in his company, friend or stranger was affected by this.
He was born on Achill Island 27th September 1945. Michael John was from a family of 11. He was born on the brae in Pollagh - Tower Road which was the road that separated Dooagh from Pollagh, ‘mullach an bóthair’ as he called it himself. With his infectious sense of humour he often told us that if you got out of one side of the bed in the morning you would land in Dú Acha, and if you got out of the other side of the bed you would be in Pollagh!
Like many of his counterparts Michael John, along with his brothers and sisters had to seek work on the potato fields in Scotland. He was only nine and a half years of age at that time, still young enough for Santa. They worked from June to November from 4am to 7pm five days a week. He told us it that he became resilient as a result of this hard work and it helped him prepare for his future.
Music, song and dance were always a very integral part his life. Michael John’s grá for music was passed down to him from his great uncle Pat Seán Tony who was one of the first pipers and flute players on the Island.
Michael John at the age of 14 joined the Dooagh Pipe and Drum Band in the 1950’s as a snare drummer. Michael John had to step back from playing with the band when he emigrated. However, his favourite day was always St. Patrick’s Day, and there was always a pep in his step as he followed the marching pipe and drum bands through the local villages of Achill Island. He couldn’t wait to hear the bands play, meet with friends old and new, attend mass ‘as Gaeilge’, tell a few stories, sing couple of songs and of course have a pint or two.
Michael John was blessed with a tremendous singing voice. His fondness and love of gunfighter ballads from the likes of Marty Robbin’s were especially close to his heart. He was very passionate about the local songs of Ireland, Achill Island and The Scoil Acla Summer School. The Houseíns around Groigín Mór and My Lovely Pollagh Shore were two of his favourites.
Local history, world history and Native American history were his specialities. He could tell you who your cousins were on one side of the family and by the end of the conversation you would end up being related to them on both sides.
His favourite place without a doubt was heading out to sea at the helm of the curragh, ‘The Sheila Maria’. He knew all the good fishing spots and all the top secret ones! It was in one of these covert spots that he caught Albert the biggest lobster netted in The Wild Atlantic Ocean. Michael John contacted Galway Atlantaquaria, The National Aquarium of Ireland and donated this specimen to them.
Michael John worked in construction all his life. This work provided him with the opportunity to travel throughout Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales and Germany. He had a keen interest in meeting with and learning about people of different nationalities. None of these people were as close to his heart as the Mayo people, especially those from Achill Island. If those looking for work were fortunate enough to meet Michael John he ensured that they would have a ‘start’ in the morning and a place to stay. He was fortunate enough to have worked alongside his sons and extended family members and was very proud of this. He was that man, who had a power of knowledge and skill on the buildings and was known for providing guidance to many inexperienced builders. There is no doubt that Michael John has left his unique mark on the building trade.
In 1970 he married Achill (Crumpaun) native Sheila Forrey in Bristol. They returned to Achill in 1985 with a family of five. With the help of his family they built their own house on Crumpaun Hill. He was very proud of this and regarded it as the best move he ever made. Michael John was always a true natured, kind and spiritual man who dearly loved and adored his family. He brought so much energy, love and laughter to his home that is sadly missed. He was a loving husband and friend to Sheila and a very proud father and grandfather. He cherished each one of his eight grandchildren and they were enraptured with his warm sense of humour and his larger than life character. Michael John has left behind many wonderful and special memories that his family will cherish forever.
The Housín’s Around Gróigín Mór
Farewell to the land of the roses,
and the land where we once had a home,
And farewell to the Island of Achill,
and the houses around Groigín Mór.
I have wandered this whole world over,
And different oceans I’ve roamed,
But for bravery, skill and bold seamen,
You’ll find them around Gróigín Mór.
- Sadly missed and lovingly remembered by his wife Sheila, sons, Andrew, Michael, Des, Steve and daughter Maria.
Daughters-in-law, Rosie, Ailish and Susan.
Son in law John Joe.
Grandchildren Connor, Annie, Kieran, Cathal, Ruby, Páidí, Niall and Kayla.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.