Saturday 17 March 2018

Peter Toner's wit, warmth, wisdom are a great loss

Father of rugby star Devin was a true family man, happiest when surrounded by his wife and children

Cherished: Peter Toner with his son Devin (left) wife Anne, daughter Emma and son Darragh
Cherished: Peter Toner with his son Devin (left) wife Anne, daughter Emma and son Darragh
Jerome Reilly

Jerome Reilly

I spoke with Peter Toner on Wednesday night as he looked forward to a weekend of fun. His son Devin was playing for Leinster in the Pro12 final on the Saturday and before that odyssey to Edinburgh with his wife Anne and two close friends there was a family gathering at a local restaurant to be enjoyed, where he would make more friends ahead of a joyously anticipated wedding.

He was in flying form. With the house to themselves last weekend, he and Anne had sat down with two laptops at the kitchen table and planned the Edinburgh trip with precision - though he admitted that it was his beloved Anne who had done most of the work and the only decent accommodation to be had was nearer Falkirk than Edinburgh.

There was one regret. Ferry times on the return trip would make it impossible to see Bruce Springsteen's second Dublin date at Croker and tickets had to be sacrificed.

Peter was a Sinatra man to the core and had seen 'Old Blue Eyes' in the Albert Hall, but through his daughter Emma, he had become a late convert to The Boss.

But fate cruelly intervened and those great plans for this weekend and the summer ahead were dashed.

To the profound shock of his loving family - wife Anne, and children Emma, Darragh and Devin - and a wide circle of friends, Peter Toner died in his sleep on Thursday night at a relatively young 65 years.

For those who cherished him, he will be best remembered for his gentle wisdom, as a loving family man and a trusted and loyal friend.

And he had a sharp mind. Before the constitutional referendums last year, I asked him how he was voting. "Yes for same-sex marriage and no for the other one."

The "other one" was the amendment to reduce the age of candidacy for the Presidency from 35 to 21. Peter said that, on his reading, this would mean a one-term president could, by the age of 29, be enjoying a full lifelong pension that might have to be met by the taxpayer for 70 years.

I didn't believe him but checked it with the Department of Finance. Peter was right and the subsequent Sunday Independent article made waves. When that amendment failed, Joan Burton pointed to the controversy over pensions as a significant factor. Peter laughed heartily.

Peter was born in Liverpool but spent only a few brief weeks in Merseyside before his mother and father Peter, an insurance agent, and Rose Mary, a nurse, moved home to Carlingford. His mother, who passed away just 18 months ago, was a much loved public health nurse around the Cooley peninsula.

Peter, along with siblings Fran, Deirdre, Marie and Rosemary, retained close links and deep affection for Carlingford - though Peter was a lifelong supporter of Liverpool as part of an eclectic range of sporting interests.

Peter enjoyed golf at Knockanally Golf Club, usually with his close buddies Joe, Ronan and Eamonn, but though a former club captain, he never took the game and its vicissitudes too seriously.

A proud Louth man, he settled very happily in Meath in the townland of Pheopotstown near Kilcock.

Disarmingly modest about his son's sporting prowess on the rugby field, he rarely spoke about it unless asked. He said the sporting gene passed to his son had come from Anne, rather than himself. "I was useless," he'd say.

Nevertheless, that turbulent match in the Rugby World Cup against France in the Millennium Stadium, where Devin had a stormer, gave him particular satisfaction. He was equally proud of all his children.

Peter was a successful businessman and along with his partner Martin Gately had, since 1978, built Toga Freight into one of the country's most respected forwarding and logistics companies.

Peter was most convivial company and cherished his friends. Moderate and easy going, he and his closest buddies enjoyed a pint in the Roost in Maynooth and debated sport, politics and the affairs of State.

Ultimately though, Peter was most complete when surrounded by his wife Anne, their children and their partners. He was the quintessential family man.

Sunday Independent

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