Monday 23 April 2018

Listowel mourns passing of publican Mary Keane

Mary Keane pictured in the family bar in Listowel, Co Kerry
Mary Keane pictured in the family bar in Listowel, Co Kerry
Majella O'Sullivan

Majella O'Sullivan

Her face was as familiar behind the bar of their famous pub as her husband's used to be.

Today Listowel mourns the passing of Mary Keane (86), who died at the Bon Secours Hospital in Tralee, Co Kerry, following a short illness.

Born Mary O'Connor, a native of Ahaneboy, Knocknagoshel, Co Kerry, she was a woman well recognised in her own right.

Credited with being the greatest inspiration of her famous writer husband, theirs was an enduring partnership up until the time of his death in May 2002.

Mrs Keane continued to promote her husband's work right up until she became ill.

Her last major public appearance was made in February last when she attended the opening night of Moll in the Gaiety Theatre.

Leading the tributes were President Michael D Higgins and close personal friend and Diaspora Minister Jimmy Deenihan who said the town had lost a wonderful woman.

"Mary was a very close friend of mine and will be dearly missed by many in the community," he said.

"Mary was a great support to John B throughout his career and he often credited her with being his greatest inspiration.

"Since John B's death Mary had continued to promote his work by attending new productions of plays all over the country.

"Mary was also a leader in the establishment of Áras Mhuire, a community nursing home in Listowel.

"Today we lost a wonderful woman," Mr Deenihan added.

Though married to a master storyteller, Mary Keane had her own way with words and one of her favourite stories was of a fateful night in the autumn of 1949.

This of course, was the night she would meet her future husband at a dance in the Astor Ballroom during the Listowel Races.

He was 20 years old, a chemist's assistant and approached her at the dance.

She once said of her husband: "What attracted me most about him was his total honesty and his openness. I was to learn later how remarkably generous and decent he was, as everyone who knew him will say."

Although it was love at first sight, they didn't get married for another six years and theirs was a long-distance courtship for some time as he went to England to work in a factory in Northampton, No doubt to make enough money to set him up in his beloved Listowel.

It was another twist of fate that led to the couple setting up home over the pub they purchased for £1,800 over 60 years ago.

Her son Billy said it was a grocery store that they had set their hearts set on but when they were outbid they ended up buying the pub instead.

In January, they celebrated its 60th anniversary and Mary was at the heart of it all.

Billy said the 50th anniversary had gone unmarked, coming so close after his father's death, but his mother was anxious that they would celebrate this year. After all, they had endured and that was worth celebrating.

Mrs Keane is survived by her sons Billy, Conor and John, daughter Joanna and her 13 grandchildren.

Removal from O'Carroll's Funeral Home, Listowel, today at 7pm to St Mary's Church. Requiem mass will take place at 11.30am on Monday.

Sunday Independent

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