Ballytoughey, Clare Island, Co Mayo
The sudden death of Máirtín Moran in May sent shockwaves through the small offshore community of Clare Island. Though by nature a softly spoken and reserved man, the ripples of Máirtín’s influence spread far and wide.
He was, in the truest sense of the word, a pillar of his community.
Having inherited his family farm in the village of Ballytoughey (“An Baile Thuaidh”) on the north side of the island, Máirtín worked the land all his life. He belonged to that unique species of islander that was worldly and wise without having ever left his home.
In 1984, he married Beth, an American woman who had made the island her home. They had three sons, Oisín, Donal and Matthew.
Together, the family established Ballytoughey Loom (www.bethmoranhandweaver.ie), an artisan weaving workshop that enriched the island’s cultural reputation greatly, featuring in numerous print and broadcast media. Though Beth was the weaver and front-of-house woman, Máirtín was an integral part of the operation.
In Beth’s words, “Máirtín was the clever fixer-upper of looms, the most courteous taxi man to our weavers-in-training, the careful washer of all the finished weavings, the shepherd and shearer of the wool that we spin and so many other seen and unseen parts of the running of the workshop”.
As a highly active and positive member of the local community, Máirtín made a lasting mark.
Blessed with an agile and curious mind, he read extensively and nurtured a lifelong passion for the dramatic arts. He directed numerous productions of the Clare Island Theatre Group, delighting in drawing performances out of islanders of all ages and backgrounds.
In the great Clare Island tradition, Máirtín was a beautiful reciter of verse and his recitations were always a special highlight of traditional sessions.
He was an active member of the local Granuaile Comhaltas Group, regularly serving as Fear an Tí at summer gatherings.
He gave generously of his time to other community organisations such as the local development company, the parish council, the GAA and local IFA branch.
Simply put, Máirtín was the heart and soul of so many good things.
Above all, he was always, reliably, there: a calm, slow-moving presence tending to animals on his farm, helping Beth with the spinning, beachcombing the northern shore, or standing at the back of the room, quietly enjoying countless sessions where islanders and visitors, young and old, sang and recited and danced the night away.
A week before his untimely death, Máirtín experienced one of the greatest blessings life can offer, when he met his first grandchild, Fionnán, for the first time. His family had to twist his arm to travel to Meath to meet Fionnán, as he was keen to travel to Achill for the Mayo Fleadh! Thankfully, he allowed himself to be persuaded.
Though his passing leaves a void that cannot be filled, his legacy lives on through his wife and sons, all of whom are gifted musicians in their own right.
Likewise, the continuing work of the island’s community organisations, to whom he gave so much of his time and energy, will remain a fitting testament.
Those who knew him will recall a man of vigorous intelligence, of quiet observation, of slow-moving purposefulness, blessed with phenomenal powers of recall and a friendly, lilting chuckle.
His spirit will undoubtedly live on in the rhythms and rhymes of island life and traditions. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílís.
Máirtín is deeply mourned and sadly missed by his loving wife Beth (née Thibeault), sons Donal, Oisín and his wife Helen, Matthew and his partner Louise, brother John and his wife Mary, grandson Fionnán, niece Lisa, nephew Keith, grandniece Kayla, sisters-in-law, brothers-in-law, extended Moran and Thibeault families, cousins, neighbours, and a large circle of friends.