Saturday 17 February 2018

Martin's tragic death stuns community

Popular family man and ploughing champion dies following accident on farm, writes David Looby

Members of the National Ploughing Association providing a guard of honour at the funeral of Martin Kehoe Jnr
Members of the National Ploughing Association providing a guard of honour at the funeral of Martin Kehoe Jnr

The death of former national ploughing champion Martin Kehoe Jnr following a tragic farm accident at his family business in Foulksmills on Tuesday, has been mourned across the country.

33-year-old Martin was working at a grain store at the family farm in Foulksmills when he was overcome with fumes, gardaí said.

Emergency services were called and medical assistance was administered at the scene, but he was pronounced dead at approximately 12.30 p.m. His body was removed to University Hospital Waterford for a post mortem examination.

Martin Jnr is survived by his wife Kerrie; children Aoibheann, Saoirse and Tadgh; father, Martin and and siblings Willie John, Eleanor, Chris and Michelle. He was predeceased by his mother Karen.

Mr Kehoe had won national ploughing titles at U21 and U28 level, as has his brother Willie John who has represented Ireland at world championships on a number of occasions.

Their father, Martin Kehoe Snr is managing director of the family business Kehoe Farming Ltd and has been the World Ploughing Champion three times and is still ploughing 50 years on from when he first started competing in the mid-1960s.

Members of Mr Kehoe’s family were on site at the National Ploughing Championships when news of the young man’s death filtered through.

Men were seen hugging one another in fields and breaking down in tears at the news, such was the affection and warmth in which young Martin was held.

Ploughing championship spokeswoman Anna May McHugh said in a statement: ‘We are deeply shocked and saddened today. The Kehoe family is synonymous with the Ploughing Championships. On behalf of the NPA [National Ploughing Association] we have sent our deepest sympathies to the Kehoe family who are so well known and considered ploughing royalty. It’s a very dark day for the whole association.’

‘For this tragic death to happen on the day of our opening, is just unimaginable and our hearts go out to Martin jnr’s wife Kerrie and their three young children.’

Mr Kehoe’s father, Martin Snr and brother were on site in Tullamore when they learned of the tragic accident. Martin Snr was coaching an under-21 competitor and his other son was here with the family business. Martin Jnr was due to join the rest of the family later in the week.

A minute’s silence was observed on Wednesday at the championships. Martin was an exceptional ploughman and athlete. He represented Ireland 12 times and won awards in national tug of war competitions. He grew up in Clongeen and played hurling for the local GAA club.

A fun loving man who always had a smile on his face, Martin was devoted to his children and wife and was a loyal, true friend. Caroline Foxe, Clongeen Postmistress, said: ‘People are just stunned, shocked and numb with grief. Martin was a beautiful young man. He had a smile that would melt you. He played hurling and had an outer strength when he played and an inner strength also. He was a proper gentleman.’

She said the tight knit community in Clongeen and people in the farming community across the country are at a loss for words following the tragedy.

‘His family is held in such high esteem, not just in Wexford, but all over Ireland and the world. It’s such a tragic loss and so ironic that it happened on the first day of the Ploughing Championships. They were such a happy family, with their whole lives ahead of them. It’s such a disaster, but there is nothing like Clongeen people to come together. We have been bombarded with deaths in the past year, but we will never see his likes again.’

Several councillors from the locality extended their condolences to the Kehoe family on their tragic loss, including Cllr Michael Whelan and Cllr Willie Fitzharris.

Former TD Hugh Byrne said the Kehoes are renowned for their careful attention to detail in their work.

He said: ‘They are probably one of the best and most careful farming families in the country. Any time they did any work for me or any of my neighbours, you knew they would be extremely careful. This must have been an awful accident because the Kehoes were very safe people.’


Farming world shattered by death of talented ploughman Martin Jnr

As the bell tolled for the funeral Mass of champion ploughman Martin Kehoe Jnr on Friday in the village of Clongeen, his loss and the loss of his family was felt by over one thousand mourners.

The 33-year-old father-of-three's death three days previously rocked this close-knit community to the core.

Inside a packed St Aidan's Church gifts were brought by family members to the altar including a hurl representing his playing days with Clongeen, his U28 National Ploughing Championships trophy and a photograph of Martin with his friends.

The congregation heard how Martin had a cheeky smile and always entertained on the dancefloor.

In a poem written by his children Aoibheann, Saoirse and Tadgh, which was read out from the altar, Martin was described as a hero and the 'greatest Dad' who gave them such great encouragement.

'Even in our pain we find comfort in our many fond memories,' the heartbreaking words echoing through the pews.

Fr Colm Murphy said the congregations' thoughts were with Martin's wife Kerri and children; his father Martin Snr, the former world champion ploughman; his siblings Willie John, Eleanor, Chris and Michelle; and his extended family.

President Michael D Higgins' Aide de Camp Commandant Conor O'Shea was in attendance, as was the Director of the National Ploughing Association, Anna May McHugh.

Fr Murphy said Martin's death resonated deeply within the Irish farming, tug of war and GAA communities, and especially in his native Clongeen. 'There are occasions in life that make us cry out "why" and a tragic death is one such occasion. Over and above the grief we feel on the death of a family member, there is an extra anguish and the question, why did this happen.'

He said confusion, bewilderment and grief surrounds us in such difficult times.

'We grieve today for a life full of promise that has been cut short. On February 3rd, 2012, Martin and Kerri were married in this church and on August 9th last their newborn son Tadgh was baptised in this church. The hopes and dreams of their wedding day have now been shattered.'

He said: 'This wasn't supposed to happen; this wasn't in the script. Martin and Kerri, together with their children Aoibheann, Saoirse and Tadgh, very much enjoyed their lives together. "Little Martin" was a bit of a rogue and a rascal in his own childhood and loved (playing with) his children as he was a child among them - full of life and energy. Nothing was a bother to him. He always had a cheeky grin or a smile on his face.'

Recalling Martin's success as U21 and U28 National Ploughing Champion, Fr Murphy said it was particularly ironic that Martin's death occurred during the National Ploughing Championships, which are so associated with his family name.

'The Kehoe family are so committed and so involved in the National Ploughing Championships that it will never be the same again for them.'

He said Martin's life will have an enduring, positive influence on the lives of his family.

'Hopefully it will have an influence also on the many farmers throughout the country that go about their daily work. Hope is the only comfort in times of grief. Let us remember Martin not for the manner of his passing, but for the contribution that he made to the lives of so many.'

The autumn sunshine was at odds with the funereal setting in the low lying village centre, as Martin Jnr was laid to rest in Clongeen Cemetery, having been given guards of honour by Clongeen GAA Club members and ploughmen.

New Ross Standard

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