Castlebar Street and Knockranny, Westport
Harry (Henry James) Kelly was born on Church Street in Louisburgh, on 1st January, 1929. One of ten children, he was the fourth son born to Paddy Joe Kelly, a building contractor from Carnaclay, Westport, and Kathleen Kelly (née O’Reilly) from Louisburgh. His first four years were spent in Louisburgh and he would happily recall those early years. It created in him a bond with the area that would endure throughout his days. The family moved back to Westport in 1933 and set up home opposite the Sacred Heart School on Castlebar Street. The innocent days of his childhood on Castlebar Street, playing with his siblings and the neighbourhood children, were days that he often and very fondly remembered.
The family business of P.J. Kelly Ltd. was started in 1936 and grew adjacent to and around the home on Castlebar Street. Harry’s father, Paddy Joe, had already long established his building company and it was this company, Kelly & Sons (Builders) Ltd. that Harry joined after his schooling. He worked beside his father, later leading the company himself, on construction projects up and down the west of Ireland including the reconstruction of the front section of St. Mary’s Church (Westport) in the 1950s, Ballylahan Bridge, Hotel Westport, multiple factories including the first Allergan facility and several IDA advance factories, phases of the hospital in Castlebar, and countless other schools, houses, churches, factories and more. His last build was Rice College in Westport which opened in 1987. In 1989 Harry’s oldest brother Paddy Joe (P.J.) passed away. He had run the hardware business, P.J. Kelly Ltd., all his life and his loss as a brother, friend, and mentor ran deep with Harry. At the age of 60 he put aside his hard hat and wellingtons and stepped into his brother’s business to continue it with the same dedication as P.J. had done. And dedicate himself he did….for the next 25 years.
He loved his second career as much as his first and greatly enjoyed meeting all the customers in the shop in the course of their various projects, and enquiring how they were getting on. At the age of 85 he was visiting the business daily, checking the daily dockets, and on the look-out for new construction in the area. It’s better to wear out than rust out, he’d say.
His enjoyment of his work was aided greatly by his relationship with the staff of P.J. Kelly’s which he treasured fondly. As his daughter Maeve said during his funeral, “ The staff in PJ Kelly’s were truly Harry’s second family. He loved going to work every day. Being there with the lads and meeting customers was his social life. He loved the banter, of which there was always a lot and we are told that he was a great boss and held in much affection. The staff in PJ Kelly’s have been so good to dad over the years and especially when he stopped both driving and working at the age of 86, giving him lifts up and down to the shop and driving him around, visiting him in hospital and the Pilgrims Rest nursing home and generally just being there for him. We would like to thank them all for their kindness and support and as a family we very much appreciate their loyalty .”
Harry married Anna Kennedy, a teacher from Foxford, in 1972. They made their home in the family house on Castlebar Street and raised their two children, Maeve and Dermot. It was a busy house at all times, not least because of being beside the business, with front and back doors constantly on the move. Harry loved his family dearly and was always there for them no matter what. His love will always be cherished by his family. As the years passed he became a grandfather and a very doting one too. He loved his four grandchildren who all at different and regular stages would be declared “the best boy (or girl) in Westport”, or indeed “in Ireland”!
Outside of his working life Harry was a very keen fisherman. He was never happier than when fishing on Lough Conn and bringing home a stout trout or two. He and his brother Fr. Vincent loved to visit Pontoon and their sister Ann Geary who owned the Pontoon Bridge Hotel. Even if no fish were brought home the enjoyment and meditation of the pastime were a plenty good reward….and excuses for any lack of fish were always plentiful too.
Another life love of Harry was any and all time spent in Old Head, Louisburgh. After their mother bought a little cottage on the beach, he and his siblings would spend many happy summers there from childhood, learning to swim, catering from the cottage for visitors to the beach, and making memories for a lifetime. Old Head was their second home growing up, and has continued to be for all the generations since.
Harry’s funeral was a warm and loving event which bore testament to a warm and loving man.
The sun shone warmly for him throughout too. The chief celebrant at the requiem Mass was Fr Charlie McDonnell, and the Mass was concelebrated with Fr Anthony King and Fr Micheál MacGréil. Harry’s grandnephew, Cathal Gavin from Swinford, sang throughout the Mass, accompanied by Ciara Mullarkey, and they held us in their thrall. As did Sarah McEvilly with a beautiful rendition of “Ag Críost an Síol”.
Harry was predeceased by his brothers P.J., Simon, Fr Vincent and Eamon, and sisters Maire Hughes, Eileen McGreal, Breeta O’Reilly and Kay Downes.
He is dearly loved and immensely missed by his wife Anna, his daughter Maeve (Dublin), his son Dermot (Westport), his sister Ann Geary (Pontoon), son-in-law Senan O’Connor, daughter-in-law Carmel, grandchildren Emer, Sam, Cassie, and Harry, sisters-in-law Ann Kelly (Galway) and Evelyn Sheeran (Ballinrobe), brothers-in-law Michael Downes (Westport), Brendan O’Reilly (Dublin), and Brian Kennedy (Dublin), nieces, nephews, extended family, relatives, and friends.
“The net is out, the fish is in,
The angler sports a happy grin.
He sits and smokes upon the grass,
And in content, the minutes pass...”
- From “The Lough Conn Trout” by Harry Kelly