As relayed at his burial on 22nd December 2013 - It is with deep sadness and a profound sense of loss I stand before you on this bleak December afternoon to say a few words about our much lamented colleague and dear friend Tom Collum, who after a brave battle fought with great courage and dignity said goodbye to this world on Saturday morning last.
On Friday afternoon last as I sat beside his bedside with Geraldine in Tallaght hospital it was quiet obvious that despite an eight months plus battle the final chapter was neigh.
As I shook his hand for the final time wishing him a happy Christmas something said to me that he would hardly make it and indeed on Saturday morning when his son Sean rang with the sad news it was no more than expected and it brought with it a sense of relief that the suffering was over and that he had gone to a better place where he would be at peace.
While we his friends and colleagues are saddened by his loss it pales in significance with the grief and sense of loss being experienced by his devoted wife Geraldine and his son Seán and daughter Mary of whom he was so proud and while he never gloated on their successes or achievements which were many you could sense his pride as he spoke in his own way about them.
He was thrilled a few years ago when Mary and Michael’s girls representing Roscommon played in the Féile na nGael tournament and I am sure he had visions of Sean and Catherine’s boys in the future distinguishing themselves in the Gaelic Games that he himself had done so much to promote and foster during his life.
While Tom spent most of his life in Templemore, a town in the immortal words of Phil Coulter he loved so well, his roots were very much in the heartlands of the rich farmland of West Limerick where he first saw the light of day and which was still very dear to his heart right to the very end. Having spent his early year’s helping out on the family farm he moved on to work in the hardware business before he finally found his true vocation as a member of the Garda Siochána. Having spent his early years as a Garda in the Waterford/Kilkenny area he arrived in Templemore in 1964 and had a distinguished career in the force working in the Garda College at first, subsequently in the local station and finally as youth liaison officer in North Tipperary for eleven years before his retirement in 1997.
Tom was very much a community Garda who was firm but fair and nothing gave him greater satisfaction than to see someone that had gone offside come back onside and grow up to be upright citizens.
Having retired form his role as a garda he took on the role as servicing officer for the post primary schools of Tipperary and Munster and here he distinguished himself as a man of exceptional organisational ability and due to the assistance of Comhairle na Mumhan and the Tipperary County Board he succeeded in putting a stamp on the scene that hadn’t been in existence heretofore.
During that period he developed a life lasting friendship with his fellow officers from the other counties of Munster, Gerry Bennis, Neilly O Keefe, Denis Lyons, Peter Twiss, Weshie Lynch, John Faul, Ann Hogan and the Munster games managers Joey Carton and Pat O Shea.
During those years he developed a great friendship with the Munster Council Officers and he was lavish in his praise for their help and assistance and friendship and to each and every one of them from Seán Kelly to the present incumbant Robert Frost I want on behalf of the Collum family to express a very sincere thank you.
Tom’s rapport with the school’s games masters in the Province was business-like, professional and co-operative and that was very much reflected during his long illness when the phone calls and messages of goodwill from them would fill a large ledger and I can assure you helped the Collum family as they struggled through a difficult summer. His expertise in that field was recognised in 2010 by Comhairle na Mumhan when he was awarded the distinguished service pennant for his contribution to the second level schools, a trophy that holds a special place on the sideboard in the Collum household.
Within the County of Tipperary, Tom’s expertise in the coaching and games field was highly rated and for many years was a very valued servicing secretary to Chairmen of the calibre of Con Hogan, Denis Floyd and Pat Moroney and their respective committees in the promotion and development of Gaelic Games and helped in no small way in putting the excellent coaching structures that we now enjoy in place. He had a wonderful working relationship with the G.D.A.s under the Management of Dinny Maher. He was highly regarded at Munster Council level and also at National level where he built up a wonderful friendship and reciprocal respect with the head of games in Croke Park, Pat Daly.
In his own unique way at coaching and games seminars at provincial and national level he commanded the respect of such high profile hurling men as our own Len Gaynor and Donie Nealon and such national figures as Ger. Loughnane and Kilkenny’s own Ned Quinn something not easily achieved.
His contribution in that field was recognised nationally a few years ago when as part of the All Ireland club weekend on the 17th of March A.I.B. made a presentation to two people that had made a huge impact on the coaching and games field and I was honoured to join the Collum family at the A.I.B. headquarters where the then President of the GAA Christy Cooney presented the high profile award to Tom in company with Tony Regan of Roscommon and N.U.I.G. Galway who had earned his award for work done in the promotion og Gaelic Games at Galway University. While up to now I have dealt with the outside impact that Tom has made I think that it is as a clubman that he would like to be best remembered. He was the epitomy of what a good clubman should be. He was one of the founding fathers of the J.K. Brackens club and whatever his outside involvement was, the welfare of the Brackehns was his priority. He was thrilled when the club was doing well in any grade of hurling or football and on the few occasions that the county honours came our way his sense of enjoyment was always in evidence. Having enjoyed the fact that his own son Seán, representing J.K.Brackens club, led Tipperary in a Munster football final. He always took great pride when our club was represented on county teams in different grades and ensured if successful, the club would rightly honour All Ireland Medal winners which, thank God we have experienced over the last two decades.
He got a great buzz as club steward organising matches at Páirc Shileáin or Semple Stadium and God help any of us that did not appear on time or do our duty as we should. I can assure you that those places will not be the same without him. For over twenty five years he was the club’s co-ordinator in the County Board Draw which helped in no small way towards the running of the local unit and he did it in a well organised and efficient manner that endeared him to both club and county Board co-ordinator Tim Floyd.
As I come to the end of my few words on Tom I am conscious of how inadequatly I portray a great man. He was first and foremost a good husband, a doting father and grandfather, a proud son of West Limerick, a good neighbour and a wonderful parishoner and fundraiser when needed whether it be for the club, the parish, Friends of Tipperary Football, the Tipperary Supporters Club or some deserving charity he was never found wanting.
As he struggled in those final weeks and when our conversions would be in one liners you could just the same get the message. My first introduction a few weeks ago was “We are in the Munster Final” referring to the Feonogagh-Castlemahon football team that were contesting the junior final. He didn’t refer to the result on the next weekend and despite his deteriorating health he could could come up out of the blue with a question “How is the Brackens” perhaps that question deserves a positive response from all of us associated with the club.
Well as we get ready to say goodbye to Tom who has gone to join his old club friends Mick Delaney, Mick Cahill, Tim Marnell, Micky Grimes and Enda McDonnell and working mates of yester year in the Garda Siochána I want to finally thank Geraldine, Seán and Mary and the extended Collum family for sharing him with us over the years and I pray that “the bed of heaven be his everlasting Home”.