The death has taken place, following a short illness borne with remarkable courage and grace, of Mr Tom Smith, Carrowholly, Westport, a well-known and highly-regarded figure in the local parish community.
A stone mason and marble cutter by occupation, he was son of the late Ernie and Maura Smith, The Quay, Westport and was aged 53 years.
Although Tom’s life was cut short prematurely he will always be fondly remembered as a jovial and happy person by all who knew him. His contact with people was extensive and he had a very wide circle of friends. He had a very quick wit and an impish sense of humour that endeared him to many. Tom grew up at 18 McNeela Terrace, The Quay, Westport where he had a happy and carefree childhood. He grew up with next-door neighbours, the Burns family, and it was fitting that family member Fr Ger Burns was the chief celebrant of Tom’s Funeral Mass. Tom’s parents, Ernie and Maura were outstanding neighbours at The Quay and it is doubtful if any house in McNeela Terrace didn’t savour the produce of Ernie’s extensive vegetable garden year in and year out. It was a point made by Fr Ger in his Mass homily when he quipped “I probably wouldn’t be as big as I am were not for all the spuds, carrots and parsnips that Ernie supplied us with, all free gratis and for nothing.”
While Tom trained as a stone mason and marble cutter, he was also an accomplished gardener and ‘it wasn’t from the wind he took it’. It was a career he turned to when his main occupation dried up with the onset of the recession. In subsequent years he was much sought after as a gardener and had many, many admirers for his work. From an early age Tom was an avid soccer footballer playing with various local teams as he grew up. In later years he was to give his support to Chelsea in the Premier League and every time he socialised the conversation invariably turned to which of the top Premier League teams had the best credentials to achieve silverware. Tom was no slouch in putting the case for Chelsea and he delighted in seeing them achieve virtually every honour in the game in recent years.
Like so many of his peers he had little option in the late eighties but to leave Westport to seek gainful employment in England. He worked there in the construction industry for the following 18 years. In the early part of the new millennium he returned home to his native town with his wife Maureen (nee Mortimer) and their two children, Jonathon and Lisa whom he was immensely proud of. They set up home in Carrowholly, Maureen’s native place, and it was there that Tom spent many happy years, indeed right up to the time he was diagnosed with terminal illness just a few short weeks ago. His passing, at such an early age, shocked and saddened the many people whose lives he had touched in so many different ways down through the years.
Some time after returning home Tom became involved with Kilmeena Drama Group as a member of the back-stage staff. But more recently he discovered that he had a liking for acting and it was one of the great events of his life when he acted on stage with the group, much to the delight of his colleagues.
He will be very sadly missed by his wife Maureen, son Jonathon and daughter Lisa (all Carrowholly), brothers Jackie (London) and Onzie (Dublin), Ger (The Quay, Westport), sisters Ethel Gavin (Peter Street, Westport), Ann Tynan (Leenane), Kasha Scahill (The Quay, Westport), Judy Fahy (Pearse Terrace, Westport), sisters-in-law, brothers-in-law, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, mother-in-law, neighbours and a wide circle of friends. He was predeceased by his brothers Jarlath (Dublin) and Paddy (Castlebar).
Tom reposed at McGing’s Funeral Home where large crowds gathered to sympathise with his wife, children and extended family. Fr Ger Burns officiated at the reception ceremony when removal, accompanied by a large and representative cortege, took place to St Brendan’s Church, Myna, Kilmeena. The concelebrants of Tom’s Funeral Mass were Fr Ger Burns, Fr Jim Walsh, Kilmeena, Fr Jim Staunton, Carrowholly and Australia, Fr Micheál MacGréil, SJ and with Fr Jarlath Heraty, PP, Roundstone, also present.
Family members took part in the liturgy, bringing gifts to the altar symbolic of Tom’s life, reading the lessons and prayers of the faithful.
In the Mass homily Fr Ger Burns spoke of idyllic days growing up beside the Smiths at The Quay. He traced Tom’s formative years, his love for his parents and siblings and later for his wife and children and his passionate love of soccer and Chelsea FC. “The Smiths were the best neighbours and friends one could ever have hoped for,” he said.
In a post-Communion eulogy Tom’s brother Ger gave a superb tribute to his brother. He spoke passionately of halcyon days spent at The Quay when the whole world seemed care-free, of Tom’s devotion to his wife and children, his love for the people of Carrowholly, his drama group involvement and, of course, his love of soccer. “He was a great brother and I want to especially thank his wife Maureen and children Jonathon and Lisa for the love and support they gave him.”
Tom was laid to rest in Aughavale Cemetery, Westport. May his gentle and caring soul have peaceful rest.