Monday 25 March 2019

Tributes to heroes Michael and Aoife at civic reception

Aoife O’Gorman, Cllr Pat Vance, Michael Kelleher
Aoife O’Gorman, Cllr Pat Vance, Michael Kelleher

Mary Fogarty

Two local heroes were honoured with a civic reception last Tuesday evening at Bray Town Hall - soccer star Aoife O'Gorman who recently retired with 100 international caps, and librarian Micheal Kelleher. Michael also retired recently, with more than 40 years of service to the people of Bray.

'We don't do this often,' said Cathaoirelach Pat Vance, addressing both Enniskerry woman Aoife and Clare native, but adopted son of Bray, Michael.

Cllr Vance said that he was delighted when Cllr Christopher Fox suggested holding a civic reception for Aoife O'Gorman. He said he was astounded at her achievement, not only to earn 100 caps for her country, but to do so in the women's sport with a lower number of international games played annually. Cllr Vance said that Aoife was not only a great player, but a great person.

Outlining her career, Cllr Vance said that the sportswoman had started in Enniskerry, and also played variously for Stella Maris, Peamount, Doncaster Rovers and UCD, as well as Ireland.

He said that he doesn't know of any other individual in Wicklow who has played for their country 100 times.

'As a soccer player myself, I know what it takes to get to that level,' he said. 'And you don't get there without the support of family.'

He said that her parents would have been bringing her around to training and games from a young age. He said that all of her coaches will have contributed to Aoife's success, as well as enthusiasm and dedication in no small measure.

Turning to Michael Kelleher, Cllr Vance said that he has known the librarian for a long time. 'He has made a great contribution in a different sphere to Aoife,' said the Cathaoirelach.

A native of County Clare, Mick is fluent in Irish. He started working in Bray in 1975. Known fondly as 'Mick the Book', Michael's retirement sparked a huge response from library users from across the decades. The warmth which followed the news of his departure was well-earned, as Michael had devoted himself wholeheartedly to the library service during all his time there.

Pat remarked that when Bray merged with the county library service, a special clause was inserted to Michael's contract, insisting that he would not be transferred from Bray unless he wanted to move. 'Thankfully he never looked for that transfer!' said Pat.

Michael's many interests include GAA, horseracing, cricket and politics as well as books, and he was the king of quizzes at one time in Bray.

'If Mick was on your team you were sure of coming out the winner,' said Cllr Vance. The Cathaoirleach said that Michael is held in high esteem in the community, where he has always given so much help to users of the library, from the very small child to very old people and everyone in between.'

He said that it is unusual and unique for a public servant to be so universally popular. When Cllr John Ryan was one of those to ask the Cathaoirleach to hold a civic reception to honour Michael Kelleher, there was no hesitation. 'On behalf of the people of Bray, thank you,' he said.

Aine O'Gorman congratulated Michael, and said that he has great community spirit, which she admired so much. 'Give us a shout for your next table quiz!' she suggested.

She thanked a number of people as well as all of the members for kind words they spoke on the night, including Tony Poutch, who had been a guide throughout her football career, and her parents who supported her career. 'I wouldn't be where I am today without them,' said Aine.

Michael said that sitting at the top table in the council was 'surreal', after attending many events there over the years.

'I'm very grateful for the honour,' he said, adding that the reaction to his retirement has been astonishing to him.

'It's an affirmation of the importance of the library service and of having staff there who will communicate to its members,' said Michael.

He spoke about a successful integration with the county service, yet he always retained a determination to do as much as possible within the Bray branch. 'It wasn't that I loved Wicklow less, but that I loved Bray more,' he said.

Michael said that the footfall in Bray and Greystones had been a quarter of a million in Bray and Greystones in 2017. 'That tells us all we need to know about the library service,' said Michael.

He paid tribute to Aine, and her remarkable achievement. 'She certainly deserves the tributes here tonight. Having earned 100 caps is tremendous, and a tribute to talent, skill, determination and teamwork.'

He said that he has received a 'couple of hundred' letters and cards, and will try to respond to as many as possible. He finished with a couple of quotes, the first 'old librarians never die, they just get lost for words'.

Not quite lost for words, Michael spoke the words of Ray Bradbury in conclusion. 'Without libraries what have we? We have no past and no future.'

All of the members of the council congratulated both Aoife and Michael, and spoke words thanking them and encouraging them.

Everyone was very pleased to learn that Michael has decided to remain in Bray for now, as he embarks on what will hopefully be an exciting and rich retirement.

Bray People