Saturday 17 March 2018

Town mourns passing of popular publican Michael Donohoe (85)

The late Michael Donohoe
The late Michael Donohoe

Pádraig Byrne

A huge crowd of mourners gathered at St Aidan's Cathedral on Saturday to bid a fond and final farewell to beloved former publican Michael Donohoe (85) following a lengthy battle with illness. Michael passed away on Thursday of last week in his home at Sliamh Amharc, Milehouse Road, Enniscorthy, as was his wish.

Huge crowds gathered at the Cathedral to pay their respects to yet another giant of the local business community. Extremely well thought of, both by his customers at Donohoe's of Duffry Hill and the community at large, Michael's heartbroken family will have gained some solace from the many thoughts, prayers and well-wishes they received over a difficult few days.

Michael is pre-deceased by his beloved wife Lena, who passed away in 2006, and both were familiar faces behind the bar in Donohoe's which was very much a family run business until it's sale in November of 1993.

Speaking at the funeral, Michael's son Johnny spoke of a hard-working man who had a great love of family. He said his father would always tell them that he was born the year of the Eucharistic Congress in 1932. He said that a big change occurred in Michael's life, following the passing of his father when he was just 13 years old.

'His guiding star and his God was his father,' Johnny said. 'He brought him everywhere. My grandfather Johnny was a cobbler and in the Duffry and St Aidan's he was known as "Johnny and his little elves" because he would always have my father by his side and Jim on his shoulders. One day my grandfather took a turn and he called my father into the room and told him "look after the lads" - the children. Then he told him to get his mam and he died shortly after that leaving a major void in my father's life.'

Johnny also spoke of Michael's passion for sports, something which was also reflected in gifts of a football and some jerseys being presented before the altar. He represented his county and said that one of the 'proudest days of his life' was pulling on the purple and gold in an All-Ireland Minor final.

In 1951, Michael married his beloved Lena and they were almost 60 years together. Johnny described how he would sing to her, particularly 'When You Were Only 16' - a song which was fittingly played as Michael's coffin was carried from the church to be laid beside his beloved wife.

As was the case with many young men in the 1950s, Michael moved to England for a period in search of work. Accompanied by his good friend Jim Dobbs, the pair set off in search of a living and secured work in The Cumberland Hotel. However, the draw of home and their families was to prove too much for them and they returned after a short while.

In 1954, Michael secured work in The Maltings - Roche's Stores, where he worked for 23 years until he opened his own pub on Duffry Hill. Through his working life and his time as a publican, Michael made some life-long friends and was renowned for creating a friendly and warm atmosphere. As well as being fond of sports, he had a great love of dogs and this was also reflected in a dog lead which was also placed at the altar beside his coffin.

Johnny spoke of how his father had battled valiantly through illness. He said that while Michael found it difficult to come to terms with at first, his family were there to help him through.

'I told him "we're all here to help you",' Johnny recalled. 'I said "we'll make your life as comfortable as possible if you just play ball". He turned to me then and said: "Do one thing for me - will you not let me go into a nursing home." I'm proud to see that he died in his own bed at home, as was his wish.'

Johnny then thanked everyone who had helped his father through a difficult illness. He thanked the staff at Wexford General and St John's Hospital, the nurses, Fr Odhran and Fr Billy who called to him regularly and anyone who had helped out in any way over the years. Michael's remains were then carried from a packed St Aidan's Cathedral and he was laid to rest at St Mary's Cemetery.

Michael was a beloved husband of the late Lena, a loving father to Marie, Johnny, Bridget, Geraldine, Patsy and the late Liz, brother of Tom, Jim, Pat and Bridgie and the late Marie and Helen. He is sadly missed by his loving family, daughter-in-law Bridget, sons-in-law Pat, Mick and Edmond, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nephews, nieces, extended family, relatives and friends.

Enniscorthy Guardian