IN January 1944 as the Second World War raged, Pat Cosgrove was born. Times were hard, the sky was full of lead, food was rationed and the future looked bleak for all.
Orphanages and mother and baby homes were very much the system of the day back then and Pat was fostered out to a family in South Sligo eventually moving to a few families in that area.
Pat, whether by reluctance or domestic influence spent little time at school if any at all. Illiteracy naturally followed but Pat, made of stern mental strength, coped well with this doing various domestic jobs as a farmhand until the mid 1970s when his life changed due to a residential location switch.
Local politicians assisted by a few concerned locals got Pat a new mobile home in the scenic village of Ballinafad from where he eventually relocated to a neat cottage in the village.
It proved to be a heavenly move for Pat for not only had he his own warm home he had the assistance and care of the local community as well, spearheaded in particular by a few ladies from the Ballinafad Development Association who voluntarily and over a long period of time assisted with his every day needs like shopping, finances and medication etc.
It was a remarkable show of goodwill and hospitality from these wonderful women.
Pat quickly settled into his new home doing odd domestic jobs for many locals who warmly welcomed him.
Very soon Ballinafad became his kingdom and The Mayfly Inn a welcome port of call.
His difficult start in life allied to his new found care insulated him from life’s pressures. There was only today for Pat, yesterday was history while tomorrow would look after itself. Worries of any description might be around for others but not for Pat.
Pat was known for his sharp tongue and every adult would get it at some stage. But children were exempt. It was truly remarkable and highly admirable how Pat could hold fire when children were present. But of course he loved children and they in turn loved him. He had an inbuilt affiliation and a caring connection with them.
They loved his antics, his comedy particularly his Tommy Cooper style gaffes. One morning a local found Pat having an almighty row with a street brush – “ What’s wrong Pat” With a few unprintables thrown in Pat replied “It’s this brush ......twice this morning the head is after coming off it and now the handle is after coming out of it.”
On another occasion some locals took him to see Knock Airport where he had a good look at a Ryanair plane just in. On his return to The Mayfly Pat was asked “ Was it a big one Pat “ He quickly replied “A lot bigger than those ones you see up in the sky anyway”.
Deprived of the chances in life the rest of us enjoyed, Pat’s charisma was infectious and his replies spontaneous and laced with a mixture of gaffes and wit which all of us enjoyed particularly the younger set.
If Ballinafad village was good for Pat so too was Pat for the village. “All God’s creatures have a place in the choir” sang Tommy Makem. He could well have been thinking about Pat Cosgrove.
Aged 78 years, Pat Cosgrove departed this life on January 23rd 2022. He left a legacy behind him. It was not a financial one. It was much more widespread and enduring than that.
You couldn’t put a value on it. It is a story of 1940s era neglect, a story of community integration, a story of community care, a story of an extraordinary character whose life touched all of us.
We all have been bequeathed a bit of it. Let us treasure it as we will not see it again. For as long as the wind sweeps down from the Curlew mountains into the valley at Aughanagh Cemetery where Pat is laid to rest by the shores of Lough Arrow, the memories, the stories of his life will be told and retold, remembered and revered in South Sligo and that will be for decades and decades.
Like his unusual life, Pat’s funeral and burial was a totally different affair.
A huge crowd attended to pay their respects to a one in a million character on Tuesday the 25th of January at 12 noon in The Church Of The Immaculate Conception, Ballinafad with interment afterwards in Aughanagh Cemetery. Eulogies to Pat were recited while Maureen O’Dowd and John Dwyer provided beautiful music.
The day was fine with Spring in the air and the atmosphere was jovial as groups formed together relating many stories and incidents from Pat’s life. It was more a celebration of Pat’s colourful life than a tearful mourning of his death.
Pat’s favourite song, his only song, “The Boys from the County Armagh” rang out reminding us all of magical nights in The Mayfly Inn.
Pat was no Frank Sinatra. But fully in alignment with Sinatra and almost everything else Pat did in his life - he did it his way!
May he rest in the peace he has truly earned.