A caring man and a 'gas character'
The late Frank Dowling
FRANK DOWLING of Castle Countess, Tralee, died peacefully and suddenly on Thursday, December 6, while recounting on the phone to one of his sons the most congenial evening he had just enjoyed at St John's Parish Church, where the O'Shea brothers and friends serenaded him in song marking his recent 90th birthday (November 24).
That important occasion (in Frank's assessment, one of the best of his life) had been celebrated with family, neighbours, friends, old FCA comrades and seasoned fellow members of the debating circle which convened each Sunday evening in Kerins O'Rahilly GAA Club House to dissect the weekend sporting events and engage in their weekly ' ball hopping' joust.
Having grown up in Liscannor in County Clare, Frank in his early 20s traversed the mouth of the Shannon and took up residence in Tralee as District Administrative Office of the old LDF, which later became the FCA. His future wife, the lovely Mary Rohan, who had spent her childhood in her native Aughacasla, Castlegregory in West Kerry, quickly put her eye on the dashing and handsome young Clare man and the next 70 years for Frank were a love affair with Mary and with Tralee and Kerry more generally.
The great affection which Frank had for the people of the town and county was warmly and fully reciprocated. Frank was liked and respected for his integrity and wisdom and his uncanny ability to look into the heart and soul of things and to know instinctively what was needed.
Happily, his extraordinary insightfulness was matched with great decency, generosity, kindliness and gentle humour. In quietly helping out and offering guidance and support to people – whether family members, Army comrades, numerous generations of FCA members or friends – Frank was characteristically delicate, understanding and always an absolute gentleman and never judgmental.
In allowing himself to engage a bit more robustly with his fellow master ' ball hoppers' (a sport not for the fainthearted), Frank was helped by his quick-wittedness, impeccable timing and an ability usually to remain a move or two ahead of his principal challengers, Mike Griffin and Seamus McCarthy.
However he was always scrupulous in just nicking verbally, without ever actually hurting or wounding. His wit and humour earned him the accolade (high honour in Tralee) of being a 'gas character'.
Frank's children were the immediate beneficiaries of his wisdom, kindness, decency and generosity. Having done a sound job with his wife Mary in raising their three sons, Frank in recent years went on in turn to prove an outstanding and much-loved father–in law, grandfather and latterly great grandfather.
He was a special and indeed an essential and giving man and all are the better for having known him. While his family and many friends would have dearly liked to enjoy Frank's delightful company for a bit longer, there is the great consolation that he led a full and wonderful life. He was given a tremendous send-off by so many people from the county and beyond, including the cousins from West Kerry, Liscannor and Foynes and the big Defence Forces contingent led by the Chief of Staff, Lt. General Seán McCann.
Military honours were rendered for Frank at the funeral services by his colleagues from the organisation of National Ex Servicemen/ Women (O.N.E) and by Permanent Defence Forces (PDF) personnel from Sarsfield Barracks, Limerick and Collins Barracks, Cork.
Frank will be sadly missed by his wife Mary, children Kieran (a former Ambassador to India and currently Ambassador to Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia-Her zegovina) , Brian (a Colonel, Director of the Army Ordnance Corps), Niall (a Commandant, also in the Ordnance Corps), loving family, grandchildren, greatgrandchildren, daughters-sister-in law, nephews, nieces, relatives and many friends, including those who admirably showed him such kindnesses and solidarity in his last years.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam uasal.