MAGNETIC PERSONA News of the sudden death of Pat Dermody from Kinconly sent shockwaves around the Mayo-Galway border area and beyond.
“Ah cushla grá mo croí. Won’t you buy a box from me
And have the prayers of Dan from Connemara
Sure I’ll sell them cheap and low, buy a box before you go
From the broken-hearted farmer Dan O'Hara”
All communications mediums cranked into overdrive. Bad tidings were emanating from Kilconly direction. By lighting up and curtain closing time on Sunday evening word was spreading at wildfire pace of the passing of Pat Dermody following a farm accident. Through his work as a mart auctioneer Pat was known throughout the region and far further afield. His engaging personality and friendly disposition endeared him to all who knew him.
An only child born to Jack and Madge Dermody. Kilshanvey was his birthplace. Save for a short spell away in college, it was the anchoring of his life from the rocking of the cradle to the revving of the hearse.
The Kilshanvey of his youth was a hive of activity. The hammer striking the anvil in Martin ‘Bawn’ Sweeney’s forge the daily backing track to the rhyme of village life. Tom Francis Burke’s grocery shop served as the local trading post. The nearby Black River turned the millwheel of Tom Farrell’s crushing mill.
On the adjacent bank of the same meandering river lads from the surrounding area gathered every Sunday and most summer evenings to play football. For diversion they repaired to the ruins of the old church that doubled as a handball alley.
He attended national school in Toberoe and secondary in St Jarlath’s College Tuam. Father JJ Cribbin, who passed away only a few short weeks ago, was a classmate who became a lifelong friend. He went to Warrenstown College where he studied with former Meath football manager Seán Boylan. While there he played for a year with Meath minor footballers.
When his dad became ill, Pat returned to tend the family farm. But on a Monday morning nearly 50 summers gone, he answered his true calling as an auctioneer in Tuam Livestock Mart. To Pat Dermody this became a vocation rather than a profession.
He loved every hour he spent taking bids and selling cattle and sheep. He brought his own unique style and a refreshing art to the discipline. He also plied his trade in Ballinrobe, Headford and Balla. Quick witted with a good turn of phrase he became a skilled wielder of the gavel. Marts under his conducting became entertaining venues where laughter and wit peppered the dealing. But he always ensured fairness where buyer and seller got fair value. Pat Dermody selling your stock was almost a badge of honour boasting.
All human life was there. And among them the ringside plants nodding their dummy bids by way of gazumping the animal’s worth for a relative or acquaintance. But Dermody always spotted their ruse long before they beckoned his attention. There’s a story oft told around here of one such incident. Pat led the dubious and enthusiastic bidder along before knocking down a neighbour’s bullock to him at a record price.
Pat enjoyed life’s social aspect when work was done. He had an array of legendary pit stops he regularly visited. He was ever welcome in any establishment he presented himself. Pat was a natural performing thespian on the dais of life. A master raconteur versed in hilarious tales and anecdotes and delivered as only he could.
Among his plethora of yarns was of Tuam Mart Manager, the late Tom Relihan, accosting one of two brothers he saw tendering on their own cow. “I wasn’t bidding on her,” the farmer protested. “We had that cow for over 20 years and I was waving her goodbye.”
And an instant rendering of ‘Dan O’Hara’ when warbling broke out.
Always gentlemanly, well-mannered and easy company in any gathering, Pat’s magnetic persona drew all others towards him. He breached the generation gap too and could converse equally with both young or aged.
Never did he play on or take advantage of his undoubted popularity. As someone said, ‘wasn’t it lovely to have it but not to act on it’. Full of good humour Pat laughed with you but never at or about you. Had modern medicine pioneered personality transplants Pat Dermody would have been the most sought after donor.
Living on the borderlines there was no escaping football. Along here its importance trumps even matters of church or state. A proud Galway man he was an ever-present on good days and bad. He celebrated their football and hurling All-Ireland victories with gusto. He enjoyed the banter the rivalry triggered and he possessed a genuine grá for Mayo.
Despite current crowd restrictions due to Covid-19, his funeral was well attended with sympathisers observing social distancing. From his Kilshanvey home they took him on Thursday morning last. Along the way neighbours stood at their gateways saluting him on his final journey.
Entering Kilconly a static guard of honour lined the route. Because St Conleth’s Church is undergoing renovations the ritual took place in Kilconly Community Centre. Apt enough too perhaps. Pat was as much a theatre as a synagogue man.
Matt Keane serenaded him in with a melodic version of ‘Dan O’Hara’. Delia Murphy’s iconic ballad was Pat’s signature song. In a simple ceremony celebrated by Father Michael Gormally, Pat’s brother-in-law Michael Waldron and daughter-in-law Anne Marie did readings.
His daughter Susan delivered a heartfelt eulogy. In preparation she dipped her pen deep into the inkwell of the heart. She made no pitch at a canonisation either. Instead she spoke truly of a loving husband to Widge, a wonderful father of Jack, Ian and Susan, a much loved father-in-law to Conal, Maureen and Anne Marie, an adoring grandfather, great neighbour and doer of numerous good deeds.
A father who allowed each map their own path in life. He steadied the ladder while they climbed. Susan recalled special family occasions he revelled in. Trips also to race meetings in Ballinrobe, Ballybrit, Listowel or Leopardstown. And those many travels to Cheltenham. Among them a stand-out 2015 day forever etched in their memory. The unforgettable excitement when Faugheen, ridden by Ruby Walsh and bred by their mum’s brother, the late John Waldron, galloped first past the post in the Champion Hurdle.
She spoke of the Pat Dermody everyone knew. A fun-loving charmer and loveable rogue who lived life to the full and squeezed the last enjoyable ounce from it. She made special mention too for their good neighbours, relatives and friends who rallied around and supported them in those difficult days.
Shoulder high they carried him through Kilconly. Past Blakes pub where often he held court. To Sean Keane’s captivating singing of ‘The Parting Glass’, they gently laid him in his final resting place. It was the last gavel dropping on a great and memorable life.
Ní bheidh a leithéid ann arís and that’s for sure. How could there be. Pat Dermody was a once off.
He lived forever young.