Island celebrates Tidy Towns hero

Michael Egan being presented with a road sweeping brush by Vincent Kidd of the Royal Hotel, as a symbol of his Tidy Towns endeavours.
Michael Egan being presented with a road sweeping brush by Vincent Kidd of the Royal Hotel, as a symbol of his Tidy Towns endeavours.
Chairman of the Knightstown Tidy Towns Committee, Michael Egan, with the bell he installed in the Knightstown Town Clock.

Liam Lynch

A lot of water has ebbed and flowed in Valentia Harbour since back in 1962 when Michael Egan first crossed it to Knightstown and first set eyes on that Alexander Nimmo designed village. It was the year in which Michael of Swinford, County Mayo, first came to Valentia to work as a Radio Officer in the Valentia Coastguard Radio Station.

Ireland was a different place back in those days and Valentia Island certainly was. Michael would have crossed to Valentia from Renard Point to Knightstown via the old motor boat ferry as no car ferry existed then. The building of Valentia Bridge had not even commenced. He recalls bringing a set of golf clubs with him and becoming a little perplexed when a local asked him 'Where are you going with those?'.

Golf was not as frequently played among the general public as it is now and Michael wondered where in the name of God he would get the opportunity to pursue his beloved sporting hobby. He need not have worried as he was to give many enjoyable years playing in Waterville and surrounding venues, becoming quite adept at it.

Michael met and married Valentia Islander Bridie Murphy of Knightstown and a family of four born to them copper-fastened his integration into Valentia life.

He immersed himself in community activities which in earlier years involved photography and writing local notes for The Kerryman newspaper. He threw in his lot with the Valentia Church choir and today is still very much involved in such a capacity. Most significantly of all he became involved with the Knightstown Tidy Towns Committee in 1983. It became all-consuming for Michael and a labour of love in a role in which he is still hugely involved as it's current chairman.

The village in the intervening years has come on in leaps and bounds under his tutelage and guidance, also winning many awards. Today, at the age of 80, he is, as he has been for many years previously, a familiar figure in the village coalface as the cool, clean hero gathering litter, performing other duties and supervising general tidy towns efforts. He is Valentia Island's equivalent of Fr Michael Murphy, who was hugely involved with Killarney, Sneem and Kenmare.

Michael turned 80 on September 24 and in recognition of this and also in tribute to his Tidy Towns efforts for so many years, the Valentia Island Community decided to honour him with a function in the Royal Hotel which took place on Sunday, October 29. A large number of people attended, with the occasion taking place in the impressive newly constructed Royal function room, with the MC being Vincent Kidd of the hotel. Other speakers on Michael's behalf were Martin Mitchell (HEO of Community Employment), Carol Walsh (Valentia Community Employment Supervisor), Joanne Cahill, Timothy Lyne and Richard Foran. Michael also addressed the gathering and finished proceedings with the song 'Goodbye, Goodbye' by Josef Locke.

When people were informed of the function it led to worry in the community that it was to herald Michael's swansong and retirement from Tidy Towns activities. Though he sang Josef Locke's song, Mr Tidy Towns himself informed those present that he intended to continue as such for the next 40 years.

A presentation was also made by Mícheál Lyne.Beir bua a Mhichíl, agus go maire tú an céad,

Footnote: It was a memorable weekend for the Egan family as Michael's son Colm also celebrated his 50th.