The late Joe Turbett
1935-2012 A SENSE of sadness was palpable in Dingle last Monday August 13 as the news emerged that Joe Turbett, the patriarch of Turbett's FunFair who have been coming to the town for over 50 years, had passed away.
The Turbetts are well known throughout the county however for over half a century (since the early 1960s) it is in Dingle that they situate themselves for most of the summer.
Joe has always been considered among Dingle's people to be one of their own and his passing has really had an impact on the local community as he, his wife Agnes (RIP) and the entire family have many friends throughout the area.
Joe, who was born near Swinford, Co. Mayo in 1935 was raised on the family farm before he met Agnes Hudson (a native of Asdee) at a local dance. She was to become to love of his life.
Agnes was a performer and Joe was smitten; he was 18 when they were married, on Easter Monday in 1954. Sadly Joe revealed in an interview conducted with The Kerryman in 2009 that none of his people were at the wedding.
"None of my people came to the wedding because they didn't like the idea of a showgirl marrying a farmer," Joe told The Kerryman. "People were funny in those days and had too much time for gossip".
After a stint in the army, Joe and Agnes began their business in 'Fit-Ups', performing drama and variety shows before putting together a funfair and carnival.
Turbett's Funfair came into being and soon they were travelling the length and breadth of Ireland bringing joy and happiness wherever they went.
In the early 1960s Joe and Agnes was invited to bring the funfair to Dingle by Jim and Vera O'Keeffe and in 1962 they accepted the offer, rolling into town in all their splendour.
In those days they used to set up beside the boatyard across from Murphy's and John Regan used to clear the timber away making room for them to set up.
It must have been some sight; this was Dingle in the early 1960s, before Ryan's Daughter and long before the arrival of Fungie. The bright lights of the amusements, the stalls, the music, the hustle and bustle, Joe and Agnes injected new life into the town, enthralling an entire generation, and the generations which followed. Soon enough, the people of Dingle and West Kerry became enchanted with the funfair and all the excitement it brought to the town in the summer months.
Dingle became a homefrom-home for Joe, Agnes and their family and their daughter Cathy was born in Dingle Hospital in 1968. Cathy came to be known as ' the Dingle Baby' in the family and footballing legend Paddy Bawn Brosnan (RIP) was her Godfather (reflecting the fact that Agnes's own Godfather was the legendary Kerry footballer Jackie Walsh).
Joe, Agnes, their four boys and six girls came to be regarded as locals in Dingle; the summer didn't really start until the Turbetts came to town and the excitement as word went around that they were starting to pull in and set up set little hearts racing all over West Kerry.
The stories of Joe, Agnes and Turbetts and the good times spent in Dingle are too numerous to recount; one of those stories however include the banking crisis of the 1980s when a strike meant that Joe and the Turbetts became the 'Bank of Dingle', the only place to get change for a large chunk of the summer!
Agnes sadly passed away in Dingle in July 2008; for Joe, a man who had spent his entire life at her side, as her husband, business partner and best friend, it was devastating.
Agnes reposed at O'Connor's funeral home before being brought to her home in Allenwood in Naas and the people of Dingle turned out en masse to bid their final farewells.
It is fitting then, that during the summer months, at the height of their season, in the thick of it so to speak that Joe too should depart on his final journey and join his sweetheart Agnes in the eternal carnival in the sky.
In the week that has followed his passing, people in Dingle have spoken fondly of their memories of Joe Turbett.
Many people in the town today will still recall how, as children, they sat in the 'swinging boats' willing Joe with his strong arms to send them higher and higher.
We all thought if we went high enough we could touch the night sky. The smell, the warm air, the soft breeze, the evening glow that made everything shimmer as the sun set… those Dingle evenings spent at the Turbetts were magical.
People held Joe and Agnes in such high esteem and would always lend a hand when things needed doing. He was widely regarded as a gentleman; a hard-working family man and a caring husband.
He didn't suffer fools, you can be sure of that, and in Dingle it was just like a jigsaw, he just seemed to fit in from day one.
As they say in show business however; the show must go on. And today, the delighted squeals of children as they too try to touch the night sky in the menagerie of brightly coloured chariots designed by the imagination of Joe and Agnes, is still audible in Dingle.
Mr Turbett reposed at his daughter, Cathy Turbett- Carroll's residence, in Allenwood on Tuesday August 14 with Rosary following on Tuesday and Wednesday night. His removal took place last Thursday August 16 arriving at the Church of the Holy Trinity, Allen, for Mass at 11am; he was laid to rest afterwards in the adjoining cemetery.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam uasal dilís.