Murrisk and Inishturk Island
Martin was born on Inishturk in 1926, son of the late Michael Tim and Bridget O’Toole and one of seven children. From a very early age Martin showed the ability to invent and find a solution to every problem that was put in front of him. He would manufacture items for the house in Inishturk, including making furniture for the house, melting down metal buoys to put new handles on cutlery and building crystal radio sets, to name but a few.
Martin’s eyesight began to deteriorate in his 20s and it was gone completely by the time he was 40 years of age. This must have been very hard to take but as was the pattern all his life, he rose to the challenge. In the late 1950s Martin moved to England to receive braille and mobility training to help him adapt to his blindness. At this time he also trained in light engineering and was employed by Borg Warner, a car parts manufacturing company, for whom he worked for approximately 20 years. He became a member of the Dolphin Swimming Club in Hertfordshire, becoming an accomplished diver, and winning many medals in competitive swimming galas.
Martin met his wife Mags in Dublin and they were married in England in 1970. They returned to Murrisk in 1980. There Martin continued to do what he knew best, working the land and keeping livestock. He had a keen interest in gardening and prided himself on his perfect straight ridges and neat rows of vegetables. Making hay was no problem for him, all he needed was his hook and a guiding rope and he could turn and gather hay all day long. He loved the hard work associated with working the land and was never idle. Martin enjoyed working around the house, from building dry stone walls to sweeping the chimney and doing carpentry, he did it all. He was a courageous man who did not allow his blindness to impede him. It was this quality in him that so many people admired. Indeed, Martin once said that it was not his blindness that disabled him, but people’s attitude towards it.
In early 1994, Martin enrolled at the Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind training centre in Cork and a few weeks later returned to Murrisk accompanied by Barney his new guide dog. Barney gave Martin a new lease of life enabling him to act even more independently than previously. Many people will fondly remember seeing them regularly out walking around both Murrisk and Westport. On one occasion Martin was honoured to lead the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Westport as Grand Marshal alongside Barney. Barney was a wonderful companion for Martin and they spent many years in each other’s company before Barney retired in 2002.
Martin loved the sea as only an Islander could, and spent many summers in Inishturk fishing for gurnard. He picked winkles and gathered cockles on the Murrisk shores and loved rowing around Clew Bay in his currach fishing for pollock. Just over a year ago he was so excited when he caught a red snapper whilst fishing in New Zealand that he talked about it for months afterwards.
It was on this trip to New Zealand just sixteen months ago that he realised his dream of spending Christmas in the sun. Martin loved to travel and got the opportunity to visit several countries during his lifetime and these included Thailand, New Zealand, Israel, Morocco, America, Jersey, Lourdes, Bali, Singapore, Australia, and Malaysia. Two of the greatest highlights of his life were swimming in the Great Barrier Reef and floating in the Dead Sea in The Holy Land.
Martin was always a man of great faith and up until his last breath he was praying and saying the rosary. He climbed Croagh Patrick on many occasions, the first time along with his sister Anna. His visual impairment never deterred him from doing anything.
Martin was a member of the Murrisk Development Association and in the later years of his life he was made honorary president. He was also helped greatly by various support organisations such as the Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind and the National Council for the Blind to name but a few, and the training he was given allowed him to lead the life he did. Even in his last few months in the Sacred Heart Hospital the care and attention he received was second to none.
Removal took place from McGing’s funeral home to St. Mary’s Church in Westport with burial in Murrisk Abbey Cemetery. At the concelebrated Requiem Mass, Fr. Denis Carney was joined by Fr Seán Grady, Fr Paddy Gill and Fr John Kenny. Family members took part in the Mass ceremonies, reading the lessons and prayers of the faithful, and bearing the offertory gifts to the altar.
The respect that was shown to Martin during his life was paralleled at his funeral with the guards of honour flanking his hearse. The Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind and the National Council for the Blind Westport provided a guard of honour for his removal from McGing’s to St. Mary’s Church and the Murrisk Development Association provided a guard of honour for his final journey through Murrisk to the Abbey Cemetery. These expressions of sympathy touched many hearts.
Martin was a quiet and unassuming man with a great sense of humour and fun. Some will remember how he rewired the doorbell in the family home many years ago so he could ring it while sitting down in his chair. For many months he played tricks on the family who were becoming quite annoyed by the phantom doorbell ringer!
Martin was a devoted family man, in fact a priest once asked him, “if God could grant you one wish, what would you ask for?” The priest expected Martin’s reply to be that he would ask to have his sight restored but to the priest’s surprise, Martin replied “Father, I have everything I could ever wish for, I have a lovely wife and five wonderful children, and that’s all any man could ask for”.
Martin will be sadly missed by all who knew him, especially his loving wife Mags, his children Teresa, Dominic, Colette, Monica and Rebecca, his brothers John O’Toole (Cork) and Michael O’Toole (Leenane), his sisters Sr. Anna O’Toole (Brighton) and Breedge McGuire (Gloucester), son-in-law Martin, daughter-in-law Sophie, his grandchildren and extended family.
Month’s mind Mass is on Sunday, May 6 at 9am in St Mary’s Church Westport.
May his gentle soul rest in peace.