WE often hear the expression about the recently deceased that their ‘like will not be seen again’, but never before in my opinion has it rung so true, as at the funeral last week of Mick Lavelle. I have been familiar with Mick Lavelle all my life, firstly through my mother’s involvement in Comhaltas when I was very young, but I really got to know the man, the legend, through my first ever job.
As a scrawny but eager kid, not long into my teens, the late, but wonderful, Geraldine Molloy, recognised that I’d be useful for manoeuvering between the patrons who packed her thriving establishment every night, to collect empty glasses. And just as Matt Molloy’s was wedged to capacity every evening, so too Mick Lavelle was present. I spent six great years working part-time as a bar help and subsequently a bar tender in Molloy’s, learning much about life along the way, and while the faces in the crowd and behind the bar changed frequently, along with Seamus, the Molloy family and a few loyal locals, Mick Lavelle was the other ever-present.
They say familiarity breeds contempt, but it never did with Mick Lavelle, rather the opposite was true, it made him an icon. I can still remember word for word his parody of some great Irish songs, such as ‘The Drunk Driver’ or the way only he could deliver the lines about the Green Fields of France being piled on top of Willie MacBride’s head. It never wore thin on me hearing those songs, or the stories, such as the one about the ‘fella called Andy’ whose mouth got him into all sorts of trouble on a walk to town one day where he kept repeating what he was told by others along the way. I can still remember the punch-line, and what it implied, and the way Mick would just wink and soak up the laughter each time he delivered it.
In my time Mick never asked for more than a cup of tea or a 7-UP, and would spend hours on end in the back of Molloy’s, chatting to visitors and singing for them. All the accolades that ever came his way were richly deserved. Mick was a character, an ambassador for Westport who, in his own unique way, did more good for the town than will ever be truly appreciated. His traditional look never changed over the years, his voice never diminished, his massive repertoire always instantly available in his head for him to break into spontaneous song.
His passing deprives Westport of a great asset, of a kind and gentle man, who brought life and laughter wherever he went. Truly, his like will not be seen again.