Friday 30 January 2015

A YEAR OF LIVING BEAUTIFULLY

Paddy O'Keeffe, founding editor of Farmers Journal and founding chairman of Farmer Business Developments, was 89 when he married Jane O'Callaghan, chatelaine of Longueville House, a colleen of 73. They had their first date just over a year ago and enjoyed just 12 weeks of married life together. Barry Egan recalls a memorable meal with the couple

THE great explorer Freya Stark once remarked: "If we have faith in life and its richness of surprises, and hold the rudder steadily in our hands, I am sure we will sail into quiet and pleasant waters for our old age." Paddy O'Keeffe was on a luxurious pleasure cruiser until the end. He was never without a smile on his face even as he put to sea triumphantly on his final voyage into open seas last weekend.

Paddy died last Sunday night at home in Ballyhooley, County Cork. He was a wonderful 89 years of age, going on 21.

The night before, he and his wife, Jane O'Callaghan, a relative colleen of 73, had gone to see Les Miserables at the cinema in Mahon Point. They had lunch in Longueville House on the Sunday together.

It must have been some lunch for Paddy, the iconic founding editor of Farmers Journal, and Lady Jane, the delightful dowager of Longueville House in smart County Cork.

They were married only a little over 12 weeks. But they more than made the most of it and, according to friends, perhaps made those 12 weeks the happiest of their lives.

Jane and Paddy were joined in matrimony on October 19 at the register office in Cork city, with a blessing at Glenstal Abbey later that day. They had the wedding reception – a gourmet luncheon at Jane's beloved Longueville House – the next day.

The 160 guests – among them TD Simon Coveney, economist Colm McCarthy, radio tycoon Dermot Hanrahan and Margaret Scally, proprietor of Hayfield Manor – were treated to a four-course meal, as well as not one, but two, sopranos singing Nessun Dorma and Nella Fantasia.

The fair bride and her friends sang I Could Have Danced All Night from My Fair Lady. Michael Berkery, the chairman of the Farmer Business Developments (FBD), of which Paddy was the founding chairman, gave a speech about his long friendship with Paddy and Jane, and about Paddy's significant stamina and love of life.

A little over a year ago – on January 10, 2012 – Jane got a phone call from Paddy. She thought he was ringing to give out about a meal he had at Longueville House.

The call was, in fact, to ask her out to lunch. But not just any lunch. Two days later, they went to Patrick Guilbaud's restaurant in Dublin. The lunch went well. Jane wanted to return the favour, and suggested she take Paddy to the cinema. He replied that he hadn't been at the pictures for nearly 60 years.

"Laurel and Hardy or something like that," he said with a laugh last summer over dinner in Longueville House. They went to see The Iron Lady at the Gate cinema in Mallow. "I had to explain before we went in," Jane chuckled, "that long ago you used to go up to the back for a court.

"But you know there's a huge thing out there for people of Paddy's and my age," Jane added. "I have friends – their husbands are dead. They are looking for company. They want to meet people. There is nowhere to go. It is very hard to meet people when you're older. Where do you go?"

They got engaged not long after: that's where they went. It was a short engagement, but life is short.

They never listened to what society said about matters of the heart at their age. They were too busy listening to what their hearts said to them about each other. They were too busy being in love.

"Years ago," Jane told me at the dinner I had with her and Paddy in Longueville House on July 20 last year, "when you met someone in a dance down in Kilkee, where I used to go from Limerick, they'd say to you in the morning: 'Did you click?' If you clicked, it meant you got on with somebody. I think Paddy and I just clicked."

"Do you think there was a chemical reaction?" Paddy asked rhetorically, his eyes on his wife-to-be.

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