God Bless His Sole
The Fishmonger’s Family
My godmother’s son had posted details about canvassing for Michael D Higgins in the Midlands and I immediately reached out to him on Facebook to see who was organising things in my hometown and how I could help from Spain.
I knew of Joe but didn’t know him personally, my mother talked often of his success in Student Politics as she watched with pride as he became GMIT president and later USI president.
Talking with Joe on Facebook, he suggested meeting at my parents' house when I was next home but I knew that would be impossible for both of us.
Several e-mails were sent back and forth until my mother messaged me that his father had died suddenly, Life is what happens when you are making plans, they say and the door to door knocking and canvassing was put on hold as the tragedy of having everyone come to your own door to pay their respects was realised. Joe’s mother had passed away a little over a year before making things even harder, I’m sure, as he reached once again for the help of his local priest and Foley’s Funeral Directors.
His father was well known and well liked in the locality and he was always a familiar sight around my own home in Athlone, His father Bobby was a fishmonger and brought fish from far and wide. Fun with a quick tongue or as his son Joe put it so eloquently in the eulogy, loaded compliments such as “the weight suits ya”
My parents had known Bobby and his wife Margaret for a very long time and I always saw my godmother as being like a sister to my mother. Bobby lost his wife and love of his life 15 months earlier but visited her daily at the cold but beautiful graveyard of Kilglass.
He returned to her graveside one last time on Election Day, Friday, October 26.
I looked out at the beautiful lake and wondered if this was where President Mary McAleese had a home and which of the many big houses could have been hers.
Just under 30 and well over six-foot, I looked at Joe O’Connor on the hardest day of his life, preparing to bury his father. The music played beautifully from the church balcony and as I looked at Joe speaking from the pulpit, I wondered if I might possibly be looking at a future president and will watch with great interest at the future career of GMIT´s former student president.
I could see Social Democrats founder Roisin Shortall TD in the church pews and an old friend of mine from the Labour Party John Feely. Even the President had paid his respects to the fishmonger’s family on Election Day by sending his aide-de-camp to represent him on that difficult day.
Never one to eat a lot of fish at home, I have always wondered why Ireland doesn’t enjoy more fish, especially as an island nation with a terrible history of suffering from famine and certainly with the absence of Bobby O’Connor, I know there won't be as much fish flowing into my parents’ home in the future.
Bobby had kept us well stocked over the years and I remember the big fuss about the smoked salmon for my confirmation on the 14th of May 1995.
Joining my parents at St Brigid’s Church, I spotted my sister there too.
A quick hug before heading off to the graveyard at Kilglass and then onto the Kilmore Inn.
Enjoying a big feed, back at the Kilmore Inn, I stuffed myself on a delicious meal and generous portions of spuds and lasagne and salads but couldn’t help notice the lack of fish.
Bobby had fed my family one last time even if we didn’t get to enjoy his fish this time.
God bless his Salmon and his Sole.