Main Street, Kiltimagh and Emo, Co Laois
KATHLEEN McGrath, Main Street, Kiltimagh, who died on April 5, was a well known publican for many years in the town. Her husband, Austin, a native of Greenwood, Ballyhaunis, died in 2013.
Kathleen (O’Connell) was born in Emo, Co Laois, on April 27, 1935. Her parents were Tom and Bridget O’Connell and she grew up on a farm with her sister Emmie and her two brothers, Liam and Eamon.
Her father also served as a member of the Irish Army. The children were often needed to help their mother on the family farm.
Kathleen attended the local National School from where she secured a scholarship to secondary school where she completed her formal education.
She took a keen interest in camogie and soon became a prominent member of The Heath team. She featured at the age of 16 on the team that won county honours in Laois in 1951. For one reason or another, the team did not receive their medals and it was not until 2010, all of 59 years later, that the eleven surviving members were eventually presented with their medals at a gala night in the Gandon Inn Hotel (Treacy’s).
It was a night full of nostalgia and memories and a wonderful occasion in the heart of the midlands. She was accompanied by the largest group of the night, 36 who made the journey from Kiltimagh!
She left Laois for London in her late teens where she worked in the hotel business for a while before going on to be a bus conductor. It was while in this job that she met Austin McGrath who was a bus driver with the company.
They married in London in 1959 and moved back to Dublin in 1963. Eight years later in 1971, they decided to buy a pub and moved west to Kiltimagh. It was a big change for them and a new challenge for Kathleen to get to know an entire new community.
Within weeks, she had settled well into life in Kiltimagh where the McGrath family were soon to become prominent members of the local community.
Kathleen quickly acquired a fine knowledge of the Kiltimagh area and its people and, along with Austin, established a thriving pub business on Main Street. The pub became a central part of her life and she loved the interaction and friendly banter with the local people.
She retained a great fondness and loyalty to her native Laois and the night she was among the guests at the camogie reunion in 2010 was something she cherished in such a special way.
“It was great to meet so many of the girls again. They had a great welcome for me and all my gang. I probably had not enjoyed a better day in my home county since I left it all those years ago. Even our manager, Jackie Keyes, who is now in his mid-80s, was there too. It was emotional and proved again that we always retain a special bond for the place where we were born,” Kathleen told me back in 2010.
The passing of Austin in 2013 made it difficult to run the pub on her own and in 2016 the family made the decision to close the pub.
She had a great love for the game of 25 and this became a major part of her life. She was a regular each week at the games in Craggagh and Kiltimagh Community Centre. Her loyal card playing partner was Aiden ‘Rudi’ Lydon whose mother Theresa was one of Kathleen’s most loyal and enduring friends. Other special card friends included the late Catherine Nally, Tommy Carney, Joe Glynn and many more.
Removal was from the home of her daughter Bernadette Finn and her husband John and family to the Church of the Holy Family for the Funeral Mass celebrated by Fr Michael Quinn, PP, assisted by Deacon Martin Lynch, and was followed by burial afterwards in Kilkinure Cemetery.
Kathleen, who was predeceased by her husband Austin, her sister Emmie (London) and brother Liam (Laois), is deeply regretted by her daughters Maria and Bernadette, son Seán, sons-in-law Gerard Keegan and John Finn, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, her brother Eamon O’Connell (Laois) and sister-in-law Betty, sisters-in-law, brothers-in-law, nieces, nephews, relatives and friends. MC