Anton Savage pays moving tribute to 'generous and kind, courageous and loyal' father Tom
Anton Savage has paid a moving tribute to his father, Tom Savage, describing him as “generous and kind, courageous and loyal” and who had seen money as “something to be given away as quickly as possible.”
The Public Relations consultant and former chairman of RTE passed away peacefully at home at the age of 76 last Thursday night. He had been suffering from cancer.
He is survived by his wife, Terry Prone, with whom he had worked side by side for over 40 years and also by their only child Anton, Anton’s wife, Cathy and their baby daughter, Anna.
Anton said Tom was “essentially the hero” of every single one of Terry’s books, no matter the character’s age or background.
His funeral today at the church of St James at Grange on the Cooley peninsula in Co Louth saw many attend from Irish public life.
President Michael D Higgins was represented by his Aide de Campe, Commandant Louise Conlon, Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald was present.
Enda Kenny’s wife, Fionnuala Kelly was present, as was Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, health minister Simon Harris, Minister for Children, Katherine Zappone, Deputy Kevin 'Boxer' Moran, Minister Mary Mitchell O'Connor, Deputy Timmy Dooley and Senator Aodhán O’Riordáin.
Sunday Independent Editor Cormac Bourke, INM Group Business Editor Dearbhail McDonald and writer Neil Francis were also in attendance.
Former health minister Dr James Reilly, former minister of state Martin Mansergh, and Green party leader Eamon Ryan were also there.
Novelist Kathy Kelly, Gavin Duffy from Dragon’s Den and Fergus Finlay of Barnardos were also amongst the mourners who came to express solidarity with the family.
Padraig Flynn, the former Minister and EU Commissioner was in attendance while amongst those from the world of media were broadcasters Vincent Browne, Matt Cooper, RTE’s Tommie Gorman and Joe Little, TV3’s Ursula Halligan and former editor of the Sunday Tribune, Nórín Hegarty.
Cardinal Sean Brady, who was a lifelong friend of former Catholic priest Tom Savage, was chief celebrant at the mass. They first met as classmates at Maynooth in 1959. He revealed that he last spoke to him at the baptism of his granddaughter, Anna when Tom had had the voice of a sick man - “but there was a definite note of contentment,” he said.
Family, local community and church were the three most important things to him, he said.
He described him as a “lovely guy, a gentleman who gave wise advice.”
And when he had felt the calling as a layman, he left the priesthood but continued to help people to communicate their message, Cardinal Brady said.
Even in the face of illness, he had been calm, positive alert and as courteous as ever, he added.
Prayers were said for the medical teams at St Vincents and Beaumont hospital, as well as Dublin Fire Brigade.
A prayer was also said for “Tom’s little sweetheart”, Anna, who “illuminated his life in his last few days.”
There was laughter in the church as Anton Savage quipped of his position in ‘having to give his father’s eulogy with his dad’s guide to giving a eulogy in his head.’
He spoke of his father’s many achievements – from marching for civil rights in the North, to writing for the Irish Press, to presenting programmes on television and setting up successful companies to serving as adviser to Taoiseach Albert Reynolds and playing a pivotal role in the peace process and talking to paramilitaries on both sides.
But the number one thing in his father’s life was football, he said to much amusement from the congregation, wining a junior All Ireland with Louth and also the Siegerson cup for Queens in Belfast.
He described how the finest thing Tom had to say about Cardinal Sean Brady was that he was a “bloody good footballer.”
Meanwhile he spoke of his father as a man of ‘gentleness and forcefulness.’ He was completely blind to status and just did not see it.
As chairman of the RTE authority, he would find out who was working over Christmas and would personally ring them individually to say how much it was appreciated.
He was a man who was generous, kind and loyal and who gave away money. This dated from a time when he had once given away his last penny to a parishioner, leaving him with no money for the weekend only to receive a letter in the post from the bishop enclosing a £20 note.
After that he decided: “That’s it, from now on he’d give it away,” said Anton.
“If you read all Terry’s books and it would take you some time because they are considerable, regardless of age or background, all of her heroes are essentially Tom,” Anton added.
Burial took place at the adjoining cemetery in Grange.