Dingle bids farewell to 'a character and a half'

Stevie (left) and Timmy Kelliher, enjoying a pint at last year’s Dingle Races.
Stevie (left) and Timmy Kelliher, enjoying a pint at last year’s Dingle Races.

ONE of Dingle's old stock, the ever gregarious Stevie Kelliher, was laid to rest in St. Brendan's Cemetery in Milltown, a mere stone's throw from his front door, on Sunday morning.

One of Dingle's most recognisable characters and the longest serving member of the Dingle Race committee, Stevie (along with his brother Timmy) was well-known throughout the county and the country and could count many friends all over the world.

"Stevie was the longest serving member of the Dingle Race Committee, serving for over 60 years; there were many changes in the committees in that time but he was the constant link that kept the past, the present and the future together," said Thomas Callaghan, Dingle Race Committee Chairman.

"Over the years he helped in many ways with the laying out of the track, gate duties, selling tickets and anything that needed to be done.

"He was a believer in the Dingle Races and would at this time of year be looking forward to August, to the rattling of hooves on the hallowed turf of Ballintaggart."

"Stevie also saw many changes in the format of the meeting and was one who always welcomed these as they have helped put this famous race meeting to where it is today. In recognition of his contribution to Dingle Races a presentation was made to him in MacCarthy's Bar during Christmas of 2003 – it was a night to remember as he really enjoyed the international flair of the stories and the singing of a visiting Welsh brigade."

Born in 1929 Stevie, an endearing and engaging character who has long since become a local legend and written about by countless writers.

The one time hackney driver - who drove a black, 32-horse power V8, purchased from the Walden Motor Company on Parnell Street, Dublin - was the personal chauffeur to Peter Dukelow, the construction manager on site when Ryan's Daughter was being filmed in Dingle in the late 1960s.

Stevie's hackney days have been immortalised by Raymond Scanlon of Chapel Lane in the song 'Stevie's Bus' which includes the line "Way back in the sixties when rock and roll was the fuss, we'd go back to Milltown and hire out Stevie's bus. " Indeed Stevie and his brother Timmy, who were also keen greyhound enthusiasts, were among those featured in the recent publication 'Vanishing Ireland'. Popular travel writer Turtle Bunbury also met them during a visit to Dingle two years ago and he described his encounter with Stevie whom he met in Curran's Bar on Main Street. "Stevie and Timmy Kelleher ... have hit upon a canny solution to the drink-driving conundrum," the author wrote. "Even though their farm is less than 3km from Curran's, they know better than to risk driving home after a few and so they now have two houses - the farmhouse, where they spend most of their days and a townhouse in Dingle, where they "rest" on drinking nights."

Stevie also had a brief acting career in the early 1990s when he played the part of north Kerry murder victim Moss Moore in an episode of Cathal O'Shannon's television series 'Thou Shalt Not Kill'.

For anyone who may have had the pleasure of Stevie's company in Curran's Bar or MacCarthy's on a night out in Dingle, he certainly left a lasting impression, embodying all the wit, charm, intelligence and genuine 'divilment' that has come to characterise Dingle's true old stock.

In his homily at Stevie's funeral mass in St Mary's Church on Sunday morning, Canon Tom Looney described how he remarked to Fr Jim Sheehy that the Baile an Mhuilinn man was a great character.

"No," replied Fr Sheehy, "Stevie was a character and a half".

As Stevie's coffin was shouldered from St Mary's Church in Dingle last Sunday morning to the strains of 'Dingle Bay', beautifully sung by Dingle Races Chairman and veteran commentator Thomas O'Callaghan, there wasn't a dry eye in the house.

Later in the day there wasn't a dry glass in Dingle's public houses as many a toast was raised to a true Dingle character.