The sculptor and Master of Kenpo karate had an exemplary ability to inspire, writes Maurice Mahon
HUGH Hanratty's life began in Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin, in 1953. The family then moved to Rathmines and Ranelagh where he spent his childhood and teenage years.
One of a family of seven, Hugh went to school on Donore Avenue. On leaving school, he got an apprenticeship as a plumber like his father. Hugh focused on copper roofing, a very specialised craft.
In 1975, Hugh met his wife to be, Imelda Duff, in the famous Sloopy's nightclub in Fleet Street. They married on December 31, 1980 and the following year their son Ryan was born.
In 1976, Hugh and Imelda opened the first Penny Farthing Cycle shop in the Dandelion Green, followed thereafter by shops in Aungiers Street, Dorset Street, Camden Street, Finglas, Bray and a superstore on the Longmile Road.
Their success story in business was in no small part down to the dynamic capabilities of Imelda who learnt her trade from her father, Sean Duff of Summerhill. Today this family-run business continues to thrive in the very capable hands of their son Ryan.
It was in his mid-teens that Hugh began his martial arts training, studying Kenpo karate with Jack Skelton. As a student of Kenpo, Hugh achieved all that there was to be achieved in the martial arts. He was an eight-degree black belt and Master of Kenpo.
His ability to inspire and encourage was exemplary. Hugh co-owned a number of karate studios and schools, at Baggot Street, Rathmines. Camden Street, Dorset Street and Bray. These were the first of their kind at that time. Hugh, with others, combined advanced Kenpo and Shaolin Kenpo to make an extensive syllabus. He took classes in judo from his cousin Michael Hanratty, a judo expert, so as to facilitate an aspect of grappling. This was ahead of its time, but Hugh felt that this technique, like jujitsu, further complemented the art of self-defence.
On October 19 last year, Hugh unveiled a pair of sculpted bronze busts at a Kenpo Ireland awards ceremony in the Mansion House. Hugh was commissioned by members of Kenpo Ireland to produce the two life-sized bronzes of Grandmaster Tommy Jordan and Grandmaster Maurice Mahon. The night was a celebration of the first Kenpo black belts in Europe, awarded in Dublin in 1965.
Both Hugh and his partner Yvonne Coffey stood proud on that night, with Hugh receiving much acclaim for his creations in bronze. Hugh's work in bronze also includes the famous lifesize sculpture of Oliver St John Gogarty in Dublin's Temple Bar. There is also a number of bronze busts by Hugh in some of Dublin's better known watering holes, including busts of writer Con Houlihan in the Bank on Dame Street, the Goat Grill in Goatstown and the Dropping Well in Dartry, where they will always have pride of place from his good friend Charlie Chawke.
Hugh Hanratty died on January 22, 2012 and it was Charlie who spoke of Hugh and his friendship at the requiem Mass on Wednesday, January 25, celebrated by Fr Joe Kennedy at Mary Immaculate, Refuge of Sinners church, Rathmines.