Monday 22 April 2019

Billy Keane: 'I'll never forget my dear friend Weeshie's words of wisdom and how he lifted our spirits'

Weeshie was the best ever interviewer. He lulled the interviewee into a true sense of security. Picture credit: Piaras Ó Mídheach / SPORTSFILE
Weeshie was the best ever interviewer. He lulled the interviewee into a true sense of security. Picture credit: Piaras Ó Mídheach / SPORTSFILE
Billy Keane

Billy Keane

Weeshie Fogarty - broadcaster, writer, nurse, the most loving of husbands and the dearest of dads - died last week, but he did not pass away and he never will.

As I'm typing away here I can hear him; I have had him in my head all week. Weeshie was great fun and he always did his best to do good.

Exactly 30 years ago in St Finan's psychiatric hospital in Killarney, my friend was in a bad way from the drink. Weeshie was a psychiatric nurse for a good few years before he became a sports journalist. My friend was also a gambler and a terrible tipster.

We went for a walk and who should we meet only Weeshie, who told me: "Bill, will you get that man out of here before he sends all the doctors and nurses into the poor house."

My friend hasn't had a drink since. Weeshie (pictured) won him back for his family with kindness and funniness in a grim enough place, an old Gothic place, a sad place. The hotel with no carpets they call it.

St Finan's was a home, though, for the lost and forgotten who were often dumped by those who should have been minding them.

Weeshie used to say "there is more love in here than you would ever find on the outside".

He used to hold the hand of the old lifers when they were dying and he would gently talk them through to a happier place. He never let the job get him down, well not for long anyway, but it must have been tough going for such a caring man.

Then he would go stone mad in the commentary box when Kerry were playing. There were times when you'd swear you were listening to a South American soccer commentator shouting 'gooooooooal'. For us football is the way of our lives, and Weeshie was one of our own.

Radio Kerry replayed the full commentary of the All-Ireland finals on the night of the game. Our own station kicked in at Roscrea and we sped down the N11 to get in range for Weeshie and his good pal, the late Liam Higgins. The journey home flew. A mile was an inch. Just like Mícheál, Weeshie made the games far better than they actually were.

There's a breed of cute arses here in Kerry and I call them the 'how're you doings'. The cagey men mutter a 'how're you doing' and they are gone before you can answer.

They'd be afraid you might ask them for something. Weeshie gave an exclusive to everyone, no matter who they were, or what they had, or didn't have.

For a man who never stopped talking, he was a great listener. Weeshie would shut out the whole world when he was with you. It was as if there was a vision and sound tunnel between you and him.

He gave me advice one time when things couldn't have been much worse.

I see the much younger me back then, broken and forlorn. I see Weeshie with the young me. Sound words and loving words were spoken then. He was on my side.

And how he loved his wife Denise. They were old sweethearts who stayed sweethearts. His kids loved him and enjoyed him.

Weeshie kept our dad alive for all of us when he did dad's best ever interview. The interview was supposed to be about football, but dad opened up about all aspects of his life. They used some of the words from the interview at the funeral Mass. Dad would have been so proud.

Weeshie was the best ever interviewer. He lulled the interviewee into a true sense of security. I'm sure he learned how to bring the best out of people when he was nursing in St Finan's.

Many of today's sports journalists are not happy unless they are tormented. Too often we miss the 'good news' story.

Weeshie could be honest when it was needed. Kerry football meant too much to him to tell lies, but he softened the blow and he was never personal. Weeshie lifted the human spirit and he often played this game for laughs.

There was the famous interview about Beyonce. "Baywancee? Who's he. Is it a band?" Weeshie knew full well.

I didn't listen to Radio Kerry this week. The hearing of his voice would make me too sad.

The Voice of the Kingdom is quiet now, but as I write here I can hear him and I cannot separate the singer from the song.

Weeshie, my dear friend, your sing-song voice was the cadence of us and the voice of us. The boy's eyes that invited us in to your company twinkled like little stars. You gave so much and in the end you wore out.

We will leave the last words to the man who was the word: "And when I die, hopefully I will travel from one Kingdom to another."

Weeshie, the turnstiles were wide open and you walked right in.

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