Leenane Road and formerly, Bridge Street, Westport, Co Mayo
The people of Westport and its surrounding area, family and friends in his beloved Westport, and around the country, were greatly saddened to hear of the death of Gerard (Gar) Golden, a well-known and respected member of the Westport community on Friday, September 20, 2019 surrounded by his family.
Gerard, known to many as Gar was born on April 5, 1937, to Gerald and Margaret (Rita) Golden, Medical Hall, Bridge Street, natives of Kerry, and Mayo respectively. Gar was the eldest of four, although tragically his only brother Joe died in a fire when Gar was aged just eight years old. It was a loss that would form an indelible mark on Gar all his life, but undoubtedly helped form his incredibly resilient character which was to serve him well throughout his life. Gar loved his childhood in Westport and with his neighbours the Mc Gings got up to the usual scrapes and mischief and formed a lifelong bond as the best of friends. It was fitting that the last message he heard was one from Frank Mc Ging, home on holidays from the US and keen to meet with one of his oldest friends.
Gar embraced life in Westport as a young boy and made the most of every sporting opportunity he came across. An accomplished swimmer and lifeguard, he loved the sea and spent hours jumping off the pier in Clew Bay and taking part in competitions, or earning any certificate for merit he could. Yes, Gar was a competitor from the beginning. He played all the usual ball games Gaelic, Soccer, and he particularly enjoyed Rugby, but he didn’t confine himself to that. He was very competent at racquet sports too, Table tennis, Badminton and Tennis (even subbing in a Connacht match), but golf was the sport he adored and it took up many hours of his time during his life.
He began his golf career in Westport; thanks in no small part to his father who along with a few other local business men financially supported the club though a difficult time that almost saw it close. However, Gar’s golf career in Westport was to take a hiatus for a while as he was sent to Castleknock Boarding School, despite having loved his primary schooling in Westport and making many good friends. Later, he would return to the Golf Club in Westport and become involved in all aspects of club life. He was a player, captain, president, official, starter, and a trustee. He sat on many committees, and did a lot of good work on grounds, and some on entertainment. Many friends have spoken about how having the craic was high on his agenda. Though with Gar, there was a time and place for everything. He was a believer in logic and process. Everybody who knew him knew he believed there to be a best procedure to follow, and a right way and wrong way to do everything.
Gar spent twenty years in Dublin, as a scholar, a pharmacy student, and a medical representative for Merck, Sharpe and Dome. Despite professional success he returned to Westport at his mother’s request to take over the Pharmacy business from his Father who by then was having cardiac issues. Meanwhile he had met a local girl Judy Ryan from Carrabaun, and got married in 1964 and had three children, Pauline, Judith, and her twin David. Judy was an engaging, bubbly character and Gar and herself had many great times and happy memories together. However, Gar was to lose another person from his family as David passed away five days after he was born. Tragically Gar and Judy’s marriage was cut short by her illness, and Judy passed away only four years after they were married. Extremely difficult times to contend with for a young man of thirty-one, but Gar Golden was resilient, and he put his energy into family, work, and golf.
Gar settled back into life in Westport and his job as a medical rep which involved a lot of travelling, and maintaining the business of the Pharmacy at weekends. In 1972 he got a bit of luck, on a chance trip with some old friends. In the company of Paddy Moran, and a few other Westport stalwarts, he headed off to Clare Island, probably thinking there’d be a bit of fishing, a few drinks and a chance to relax. Little did he know he was about to take the trip of a lifetime. Agatha Mc Laughlin had made a last-minute decision to accompany a friend to Clare Island. That last minute decision would make a lasting effect on both their lives! Agatha had brought the sunshine West that fateful weekend and Gar knew Agatha was the woman to bring the sunshine back into his life. They married in June 1973, and she instantly became part of a family of four. Their son Conor arrived a year later, followed by Laura a year and a half after that, and John in 1978. They were a great team and had almost fourty six years together of what would be well earned happiness for Gar.
Things had started to look up and he embraced his community wholeheartedly and took every opportunity to improve life in Westport. He was an excellent pharmacist, a councillor, Chairman of Westport UDC, Peace Commissioner and held other roles. He promoted Westport, as a beautiful location to visit and a top class golfing destination. It never mattered where he went in the world, Germany, Spain, Bulgaria, the US, the UK (taking in some excellent golf courses along the way); Westport was the destination of choice for Gar. When the Irish Times named it best place to live in 2012, he opened the paper and said “See; now it’s official”. Yes, despite many happy memories around the country and around the globe, Gar loved no greater journey than the return to Westport.
Gar loved his life; his business, his home, his garden (taking up the mantle from Agatha), his friends, the craic in Johnny Moran’s, the “rowling” over sports, music, especially trips to the Clew Bay Critters in Mc Ging’s with Agatha. He had cherished memories of Westport Golf Club as a single figure golfer for many decades, and a great competitor. There were great laughs with his Sunday golf buddies, the Irish Chemists Golf Society with whom he played his last rounds, and of his friends in the Golfing Union of Ireland whom he met throughout an almost fifty year stint in roles in the Connaught Branch as delegate, Chairman, President of the GUI, then committee member. He had visited nearly every course in Ireland, and always quoted W.B. Yeats on his travels “there are no strangers here; only friends you haven’t met yet.” The victorious team brought the Junior Cup to the church for the funeral, fitting, as the last winning team had included the inimitable Gar Golden. He was never envious, and believed he had everything he needed or wanted in life, and the support of a family that he loved dearly and who loved him. The ultimate mutual appreciation society.
The last few months had been incredibly tough for him but he kept going, a testament to his incredible character. Gar was a man you’d be proud to call your father, husband, or family member; honest, hardworking, resilient, kind, generous, intelligent, quick-witted and funny. In the hospital, people identified his gentle soul and wanted to help him, especially at the end, when Dr Rizvi, Dr Supriya and the palliative care team, and the incredible team at Ward B facilitated a calm and serene atmosphere so he could slip away in peace surrounded by his family.
Gar will be sadly missed by his sons, Conor and John, daughters, Pauline, Judy, and Laura, daughters-in-law, Lorna and Kim, son-in-law Ben, grandchildren Conor, Orlaith, Gary, Rory, Lucy and Ella, sister, Mary (Wicklow) and Margaret (Scotland), brothers-in-law John (Thurles), Alastair (Scotland) sisters-in-law Anne (Tullamore) Caroline (Blackrock), nephews, nieces, cousins, relatives and friends. May Gar’s gentle soul rest in peace.