Tuesday 23 May 2017

Nicc knew that he was loved, and in his passing, love has flowed outwards

There are no words of consolation when a child, a beloved brother is lost, but what does count is love. It is the only damn thing that always counts

John Schuster, right, and Alexei, left, along with friends, carry the remains of Niccolai Schuster at his funeral in Dublin last week
John Schuster, right, and Alexei, left, along with friends, carry the remains of Niccolai Schuster at his funeral in Dublin last week

Fergal Keane

John was with me on our first day at school. We sat next to each other at Scoil Bhrid in Ranelagh. There was one harsh teacher there who made my young life a misery. When I was afraid, when I cried at her scolding, it was John who comforted me. That was his nature from our earliest days. Kindness defined him. He had steadiness, too. That came in great quantities from his dad, John senior.

But young John had a taste for devilment that was pure Keane. Because we lived nearby in Terenure I saw more of the Schusters than other relatives. Trips to their home in St Kevin's Gardens in Dartry always summoned the prospect of adventure. There were six boys - Alex, John, Bill, Ivan, Pierre and Milan - and a glad, often wild energy pulsed through their home. There could be dramas. Once I recall the entire clan being rushed to hospital to have their stomachs pumped after they'd consumed seeds from the laburnum tree in their garden.

John and I were born within months of each other. His mother Peg was my father's younger sister. Glamorous aunty Peg had been an air hostess for Aer Lingus before marrying John Schuster, who had escaped the clutches of communism in Czechoslovakia. My Schuster cousins were an exotic mix of Bohemia and the closer shores of North Kerry. Peg believed in letting her boys enjoy freedom, and her bracing wit was the best corrective when youthful exuberance risked straying into the terrain of blackguarding.

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