Paddy O’Connor, Ballybog, Lios Póil (April 27, 1965-April 24, 2021)
It’s a year from April 27, 2021, a day on which we should have wished Paddy O’Connor a happy 56th birthday. Instead, we said goodbye as he was reunited with his beloved parents, Pats and Bridie, at Baile an Chláir graveyard in Annascaul.
We learned of his passing three days earlier, and joined his neighbours at his home in Ballybog, an ironically beautiful hillside setting on an ironically sunlit Saturday evening. All about the scene conflicted totally with our reason for being there, that someone we all cared about had died in the hours or days prior.
There we asked ourselves ‘why?’ and still ask it now; answers not to be found.
We’ve looked through his phone: his messages, Google searches, and call logs. He regularly sought the weather forecast and up-to-date agri news, all in keeping with his life as a highly-thought-of sheep farmer. He checked the news more broadly on other websites, as tallies with someone who hoarded enough Kerryman issues for a thorough modern archive.
A receipt, folded in his wallet, told us he’d been to Moran’s supermarket in Dingle that Thursday to fill his jeep and get petrol for his strimmers. He picked up lunch in Keane’s store. Others told us of meeting him – seemingly his usual, cheerful self – at the vets, and the post office in Annascaul.
Everything fits, except for that Saturday.
As we prepare for his anniversary Mass, at 10am this Sunday in Séipéal Naomh Eoin Baiste, Lios Póil, what happened one year ago is as sharp a presence in our thoughts today as it was then. We haven’t forgotten that Saturday but never will, and so we’d like to move away from that, a little while, and instead reflect on our happy memories of Paddy.
We still read the sympathies you expressed under his death notice on RIP.ie, and the memories you called on at that time tally with ours.
He was known countywide through his regular visits to sheep marts and fairs, and some of you welcomed him and his late father, Pats, to your home as they drove back to Lios Póil from their big days out. You recalled someone kind, cheerful, modest, easygoing, just as we remember him.
His and Pats’ bond was as strong a father-son connection as any we’ve heard of, and Paddy maintained this to Pats’ final years and days as he brought sweets and minerals to his bedside at Ospidéal Pobal Chorca Dhuibhne.
Though engaging company and nice to a fault, Paddy didn’t back away from sharing his opinions. In our sitting room on his last Christmas night with us, he briefly, politely feigned interest in a David Attenborough nature documentary before commanding us to “turn off that bloody thing”. He laughed at the Mrs Brown’s Boys special as all around him drifted to sleep.
He was with us, too, on New Year’s Day and spoke his mind again, praising his sister on a “lovely, tender bit of beef,” a striking review by a sheep farmer of a leg of lamb. He laughed off his embarrassment with his chuckle, his distinctive ‘he-he-he-he’.
His Funeral Mass coincided with tight COVID restrictions, but we never felt alone as our kind neighbours, friends, and relations never allowed us to. Whether by visiting our home, dropping a phone call, tending to farm work that needed doing in our absence, or lining the road between Lios Póil and Annascaul as Paddy moved to his final resting place, a community showed the best of itself for us. They have continued since by keeping in touch or helping us manage the home place Paddy left behind.
His family nearby are grateful, too, to all who came to Ballybog on the hardest evening of our lives, to comfort us or to manage a scene we’d never thought we’d face. He was buried three days later after a moving Funeral Mass, and we thank those who helped us say goodbye in the way we needed to, at a time when it was hard to say anything.
Paddy was loved, and we’ll forever wish he had taken a different path one year ago. If you’re struggling with your mental health, please let that be known to a loved one or friend. Contact your GP or University Hospital Kerry, and know that any number of charities are there to help you.
You can phone Samaritans at 116 123 or 01 671 0071; Kerry Mental Health Association at 066 712 3278; Aware at 1800 80 48 48; Pieta House at 1800 247 247; or send an outreach text to 50808.
Paddy was predeceased by his parents, Pats and Bridie, and is mourned today by his sister, Maura; brother-in-law, Pádraig; nephew, Tadhgie; nieces, Bríde and Áine; neighbours; extended family; and many friends.