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One of Westport’s heartbeats

De Facto

SORELY MISSED Patsy Staunton (third from left) with Dr Ollie Whyte, Mary Angela Kelly and Liamy MacNally at the launch of the St Patrick’s Drama Group Westport 50th Anniversary Book in Westport Town Hall Theatre.  Pic: Frank Dolan
A tribute to the late Patsy Staunton

De Facto
Liamy MacNally

The head of the young St Patrick was bowed atop the Glendenning Monument on Westport’s Octagon as Patsy Staunton’s funeral cortege made its way across Shop Street. Outside the Town Hall, all stopped in silence to honour Patsy’s final curtain call. The St Patrick’s Drama Group’s guard of honour, heads lowered, recalled the many performances of one of their most gifted actors.
The last remaining member of the inaugural group, Edwin Gibbons, remembered 1964 and Patsy Staunton, Jackie Foley and founders Martin Curry and Michael Collins. Patsy didn’t have to act yet he was a consummate performer and the heart and soul of St Patrick’s Drama Group. From comedy and farce to serious roles Patsy could tread the boards with the best. He was always good but his sense of timing made him legendary.
Everyone loved working with him, directing or acting. His stage awareness, gimp, look, sigh and awareness often dug fellow actors out of a hole. During a curtain-call bow to a standing ovation after ‘The Plough and the Stars’, he whispered to a fellow cast member, “Either they liked us, Cove, or they’re better actors than we are!”
His wit was quick-fire fast, sharp, accurate, deadpan and most precise! Patsy was a joy to be with, great company, funny beyond words and also a deep thinker.
He had no children of his own, yet he had a large family. He had a deep love for his siblings and their children. He was always so proud of his nephews and nieces, and their families. He cared. They will miss him like a parent.
He had a unique ability to always be himself. This is the man who, quietly and regularly, visited hospitals and nursing homes to assure people they were not forgotten. He was no stranger to the corridors and wards of Mayo University Hospital, Sacred Heart Hospital, St Mary’s and MacBride Community Nursing Unit, among others.
He visited friends at home, especially those no longer as mobile as he. And he was always generous – a CD for the music lovers, a box of chocolates or a little gadget like a key ring, torch or magnifying glass with a lamp! His many friends always looked forward to his visits. He was loyal beyond words.
In Collins’ Garage or Gannon’s Garage he was a faithful servant and most-reliable work colleague. Patsy didn’t suffer fools. He once refused to accept a political leaflet saying, “I don’t read fiction.” Some might think he was ‘set in his ways’, but that was untrue. He had his habits and idiosyncrasies, but he accepted people’s foibles, even if their ways wouldn’t change him!
More than anything else he was a man of music. There was always a song in his head and heart. “He who sings prays twice,” said St Francis. Without a doubt, Patsy preferred to spend his day singing rather than praying. He was an exemplary judge of good music. We all remember comments about various singers, from ‘Not bad’ to ‘Common’ and ‘Tenor? He’s not even a fiver!’. He was like that famous ‘Man from Del Monte’ advertisement; if Patsy said ‘Yes’ you knew it was a ‘rum chanter’.
Mezzo soprano Anne-Marie Gibbons was one of his favourites. Her beautiful singing at his funeral Mass was heart lifting and poignant, chanting Patsy across the eternal threshold. He would have loved that. Celebrant, Fr Ger Quirke, summed Patsy up wonderfully, describing him as ‘one of the heartbeats of Westport’.
He was a man of faith, practised in his own way, never staying for the final blessing at Mass! At his funeral Mass, he was blessed by his long-time friend and concelebrant, Fr Tony King, and priested into the grave by An tAthair Mícheál Mac Gréil.
To say he will be missed by those who knew and loved him is an understatement. His going has left a huge void not just for his family and friends but also the wider community. The huge throngs who attended his funeral proved how popular he was.
Patsy Staunton was unique, in every way. We are blessed to have known him. Long may those blessings last.