Thursday 13 December 2018

Liam hangs up his hat

Maria Herlihy

A proud Kerryman who has worked as a Garda in Mallow for more than 30 years hung up his hat on Wednesday.

There are very few in the town of Mallow who don't know the Community Liaison Officer, Liam Doyle who has extended the hand of friendship to both young and not so young during his 36 years service.

Liam, one of a large family from Lisselton, said with a dollop of Kerry humour that he came "midway" between them all. 

When he was 17 as was common at the time, he headed for Manchester and the Stockport region where he worked for four years labouring and doing groundworks. He already had two brothers in situ, Mike and John, but unlike his two brothers, he never felt at home there.  He loved the work, even though it was tough, but it was simply not home. 

During his time in the UK, he began to apply to join An Garda Siochana and when he was 21, he found himself at the gates of Templemore. He can clearly remember the first day, it was April 29, 1981. 

Life at Templemore was a world away from the building sites in the UK. 

"It was bed at 11pm and the whole day was planned out. That was strange for me at the beginning but after three to four weeks, I settled into the routine," he says. 

After 22 weeks at Templemore, he got a placement in Mallow. 

"A Kerryman going to Mallow - I had to ask a guard at Templemore, where was Mallow?," he said. But the town he didn't know then was to become the place where he has spent his entire  service of 36 years. 

He started working the beat and that was where he not only got to know Mallow but its people. In his time, he has seen entire generations of families growing up and lots of changes along the way. 

"I got to know the ordinary person and I really loved that. I loved the chatting and loved the old stories from long ago. People in Mallow are very friendly.  When I first got to Mallow, after three to four months, I began to wonder would I stay at all or would I go. There was a chance to leave but, really, I had very much settled in," he said. 

During his 36 years service, he did "a bit of everything".

A key aspect of Liam's personality - as many will confirm - is that he is a very good listener, and some of his work colleagues have said he has the gift of the Kerry gab still in him as he can talk to a two year old and an 82 year old with the same ease and grace.  Were there aspects of the job he found difficult? 

"Every day was different and when you went into work, you really wouldn't know what could happen. It could be anything. I have seen a lot of sadness in the job but equally too a lot of happiness. But for me, I have always been very lucky in that I left my job at the station when my shift ended. That is not something you can train for, but it has just been my way, and it has worked for me," he said.

 Although the young rookie who arrived in Mallow might have had the gift of the gab,  on St Patrick's night 1984 he was speechless when he spotted Liz Murphy in the Central Hotel Liam threw his head back and laughed at the recollection and said he didn't make his move until the second last dance of the night. 

He and Liz started to go out, and that was the end of ever moving out of Mallow.   And after three years of dating, they married in 1987 and have five children  Kate, Mary Beth, Bill, Paddy and Rose. While his children didn't follow in his footsteps, his godchild, Cathy did. 

A noted family man, Liam and Liz, who are both teetotallers, are always up for a hooley and will be the last to leave any party. 

Another huge passion for Liam like all good Kerrymen, is his grá for Gaelic football. For many years in Mallow, he coached and trained a number of teams. 

Reflecting on his time as a Garda, he said he has been "incredibly lucky" to have worked with so many members who have become lifelong friends.  

One big highlight for him was marching in the St Patrick's Day parade in New York in 2017 with his work colleagues. When he reached his 50th birthday, Liz brought him to Nashville as he is "absolutely crazy" about country music. 

Since news of his retirement spread, he has literally been inundated with expressions of gratitude from people. 

"It really has been phenomenal the expression of thanks from the ordinary perople who have said to me 'thanks' and 'best of luck.' I literally had no idea that I had impacted so many people's lives and had a positive effect. I felt I was just doing my job," he said. 

Liam also worked as a school liaison officer for 24 years but 12 years ago, when he became a community policing officer, it was a role that he was made for. 

"I was the link with the community for the Garda station. I absolutely loved it and I felt it was my niche and there is something really fabulous with working with younger people in the town and sure when I start talking with the older generation, I would love to hear the stories from years gone by. For me, what you see is what you get both in and out of uniform," he said. 

While he has thoroughly loved his job, what has always come first for him is Liz and the children.  

The couple's children also got together to give them a holiday in Jersey where Liam and Liz had their honeymoon back in 1987. 

While retirement and health are a pleasure denied to many, Liam is ready to start the next chapter with Liz and his family. 

The 'Bard of Ballycarry' by James Orr contains the famous line - 'The savage loves his native shore,' and that is very much true for Liam. He regularly returns home to Lisselton to his brothers and sisters. 

"I have always liked the simple things in life and for me now, I am happy to retire and have no regrets. And that is something that makes me smile," he said.