THE death of former Gaelic football star Frank Stockwell, at his home in Tuam, Co Galway, last Monday, breaks the remaining link with one of the GAA's legendary great partnerships. In the Fifties, Stockwell and his renowned team-mate in the Galway forward line, Sean Purcell, terrorised rival defenders to the extent that they became known as 'The Terrible Twins'. Purcell died in August 2005.
They were both born in Tuam, in December, 1928, within 10 days of each other, and they remained lifelong close friends. Together, they inspired Galway's 2-13 to 3-7 victory over Cork in the 1956 All-Ireland final, and they combined for many other major triumphs, including National League, Railway Cup and Connacht Championship medals. At club level they were the leaders of the great Tuam Stars seven-in-a-row team which went unbeaten in the Galway Senior Football Championship from 1954 to 1960.
Frank Stockwell has a unique place in the GAA's Hall of Fame, his two goals and five points (all from play) in Galway's 1956 All- Ireland win was the highest score by an individual in a 60-minute All-Ireland football final; it will not be broken, for it is inconceivable that the duration of inter-county Championship and League matches will ever revert to an hour's play.
Stockwell is also fondly remembered for the match-winning goal, from a well-timed cross from Purcell, in the 1957 National League final against Kerry at Croke Park.
Next morning in the Irish Independent, admiring the combination play of the two Tuam wizards, Gaelic Games writer John D Hickey colourfully described Frank Stockwell as "a diviner of his neighbour's intentions".
For all their successes on the football fields, and their enduring fame, it remained a fascinating aspect of the lives of Sean Purcell and Frank Stockwell that in their childhood in the mid-Thirties they were first taught how to play football by a nun, Sister Fursey Morris, at Presentation Convent NS, Tuam, and then by the Christian Brothers at their school in the town.
'The Terrible Twins' first played together on the Galway senior football team in the 1948 Connacht Championship. Purcell went on until 1962; Stockwell retired after the 1960 All-Ireland semi-final defeat by Kerry (1-8 to 0-8), but he quickly turned to working as a mentor and played a key advisory role in Galway's three All-Ireland victories in a row in 1964-65-66; in the 1981 National League success, and in the winning of three successive Connacht Championship titles in the early Eighties.
Galway's Gaelic football heroes of the Fifties are chiefly remembered in their native county for lifting people's spirits in a grim, joyless, emigration-ravaged decade.
Frank, a modest, gentle and good-humoured man was predeceased by his wife Pauline in November 2000 and is survived by daughters Fidelis and Marilyn and his son, Francis.
His working life was spent running the family painting and decorating business.
Frank Stockwell, born on December 7, 1928, died aged 80, on March 9, 2009.