Seán Ryan (1926 – 2009)

There was great sadness on Monday February 9th when news broke through of Seán Ryan’s death. Nearly everyone in West Clare seems to have a pleasant memory of Sean. Since Monday I’ve heard quotes like “they’ll never again be a Sean Ryan’. ‘He was a great character’. ‘He was a pure gentleman, he was always in good form and hadn’t a bad word to say about anyone’. A regular phrase of Sean’s was ‘Wisha your pure gifted’. Sean had words at will; one night, after closing hours at Knock village, the lads decided to start a sing song, one neighbour in particular who hadn’t a note gave a verse or two. Sean said “wisha you’re the pure John McCormack, and when you struck a high note I saw the lights in Tarbert dim”. Yes I could go on and on. The following notes are from an interview I carried out with Sean back in 1990. Sean resided in Drumdigus, Kilmurry McMahon and was very well known throughout County Clare and the City of London where many of his sisters were happily married. Sean was a versatile person – one who had many interests and talents, the most noticeable being his participation in dancing. His initial dancing steps were taught to him by the famous Jack O’Donnell, Tullycrine House. This was during school days at Drumdigus N.S. Sean won an open waltz competition at the village of Knock during a travelling road show by Moans. His partner in that competition was Miss Mary Murphy, Ballycurrane. His dancing days during the 1940’s and 1950’s was mostly confined to annual Christmas and Easter Hall dances. It wasn’t until the 1970’s that Sean got seriously involved in competition and in the following decade he participated with the Kilmurry, Crossmore, Coastline and Kilmihil Sets. His total collection of trophies add up to one hundred and four. His partner for eleven victorious waltzing competitions was Marie O’Connell. Yes versatile was the adjective to describe the late Sean Ryan. In his younger days he was a noted horseman and jockey with the West Clare Harriers. He took part in the Tullycrine Races for ten annual competitions.  He also captured prizes at Shows. But it was in recent years that his son Gerry caught the spectator’s eye jumping on his 14.2 pony named ‘Trampus’.

Sean was elected to the Clare County Council in June ’74 and remained for two terms as the local Fine Gael representative. Sean was a popular choice and followed in the footsteps of his uncle the late Mick Malone of Killofin. Sean was appointed as a Peace Commissioner in 1975. This article would not be complete without a reference to the rare skill of thatching. He carried out thatching in the 1950’s at parish level and in October of 1970 Sean and local man John Galvin took on contract work from the company Rent an Irish Cottage. Their finished product still remains at places such as Carrigaholt, Broadford, Corofin and Whitegate. They were also involved in thatching at Bunratty Folk Park.

Tracing with Sean was more than entertaining he had vast knowledge of family trees, places and he even had rhymes and songs relating to people and places within the parish and surrounding parishes. He had many answers to local history queries and I had the privilege of recording many of these answers.

Sean was a good athlete and competed in many sports meetings and a favourite of his was running in the Annual Sports at Daly’s field. Sean and my late father were great friends and they competed in the married mens competition at Daly’s field in 1964. Sean being thirteen years younger was the winner on the day with my father at 51 years finished in second place.

Sean was a regular to Derryguiha and in the 1940’s ‘50’s and ‘60’s to cut the hay and made the ricks and wynds with Dad in the early years using horses and in the 1960’s with a tractor. He also carried out the trashing of corn on our farm. My first glimpse and a spin on a tractor as a youngster were on the invitation of Sean when he arrived to mow the meadows down.

Going in the Wren when we were kids  and calling to Sean Ryan’s was a memory for life – he always gave generously, he especially had a great generous heart one never left the Ryan home without  a pocket full of coins and you also got the sweet loaf and drink of orange juice.

The Funeral. Sean got a great ‘send off’ the turnout of friends and relatives at Duggan’s Funeral Parlour on Tuesday last was just enormous and again on Wednesday at the funeral Mass and farewell. There was a packed church at St. Mary’s Kilmurry McMahon. Many representatives from Public Life attended on both days including Lord Mayor of Clare; Madeline Taylor – Quinn and Deputy Pat Breen (T.D.) Both Madeline and Pat spoke highly of Sean at the ‘graveside farewell’. National School days were recalled by Br. Sean McNamara in a reflection after con-celebrated Mass by Fr. Oliver Ryan, Fr. John Kelly and Fr. John O’Keeffe.  Br. Sean and Sean Ryan were life long friends and former classmates.  A set was performed on a platform in open air after the funeral Mass at Kilmurry McMahon. The dancers all friends and colleagues of Sean’s included Michael and Sean Killeen, Patrick and Paul Dillon, Eamon Keane, Marie and Deirdre O’Connell, Patricia Corry and Pauleen Hickey. The music was by Martin Noel Tubridy and Áine Heslin.  Guards of Honour by Fine Gael were present on both days. Stephen Dunne led the coffin and mourners with instrumental music to the graveside; this indeed was a very fitting tribute to Sean.

Finally, our memories of Sean will live on, he was an inspiration to us when he lived amongst us and he will continue to be an inspiration for us from his new home in Heaven.

Let us thank God for the years that Sean was with us; for the gaiety and happiness, for the whit and quotes he has left behind – never to be lost and never to be forgotten.

Lord console the bereaved; Billy, Mary, and Gerry and their families. Give them strength and encouragement for the future days and years.