Late Phil Cooney
On 25th June 2017 Phil Cooney, of 5 St. Bridget’s Terrace, Littleton, passed on to his eternal reward.
Phil was born in Ballybeg, one of seven brothers and three sisters, to Mikie Cooney and his wife Katie Moloughney.
Bog and Band were immediate and lifelong aspects of their lives. Mikie Cooney cut, saved and sold turf long before Bord na Móna was established and was the second permanent employee of the Bord when it started operations in Derryhogan. Phil and four of his brothers became employees of the Bord as did Phil's son Andy and Andy's son J P for a while too. In his early years with the Bord he dug drains with a navvy shovel where you were paid by the number of yards you dug per day, tough work that he took in his stride. Later he became an accomplished dragline driver, being an expert with the 19 or 21 RB and later again a locomotive and Hymac driver. He was also an able and straight talking union officer. Phil had been saddened to hear of the impending closure of Bord na Móna in Littleton.
Phil's father and his two Moloughney uncles, Phil and Paddy, were founder members of the Seán Treacy Pipe Band in 1934 so it was inevitable that the Cooney boys would join up too. Phil was one of about 8 or 9 teenagers who in October 1950 began attending piping classes three nights a week in the old galvanised band hall in Pouldine under the keen eye of a seventeen year old piping prodigy from Waterford, Stephen Power. Phil remained a life long friend of Stephen’s. The Cooney house in Ballybeg was often like the location of a mini Fleadh Cheoil or band competition when all the brothers and sometimes passing visitors played together on Sunday mornings or Summer evenings.
In the early sixties Phil married a Thurles woman, Margaret O’Connor or “Babba” as he affectionately called her. Around that time another great friend of his, Jimmy Heffernan, the then Pipe Major of the Band died suddenly and the newly married Phil was appointed Pipe Major. Though he let Phil Mooney and his brother Joe have a go at the job for a while Phil continued in the position till the mid seventies. He was a most musical player with a great ear and an inherent sense of time. In the 1960s he won Munster and All Ireland Fleadh Cheoil medals for solo piping but had a great love and knowledge of all Irish traditional music. Of course he was also a member of the famous Moycarkey Borris set dancers who won All Ireland Senior Scór.
In the 1980s when the Band began to entertain the idea of building a Bandhall of its own Phil was a key member of a small group of lads whose enthusiasm and drive carried the dream through to reality. He was a natural diplomat with great people skills and he negotiated many concessions from political and business sources, though he didn’t believe much in dealing with middlemen! In all of his varied activities his genuine friendliness and good humour shone forth. Yet beneath his easy going outward demeanour he had a heart of steel and if you ever were in a situation where your back was to the wall you could not ask for a finer comrade to be by your side.
There are so many other aspects to the life of Phil Cooney that his wife and family recalled at the time of his passing and will continue to recall over the coming times, private, personal things about him that they will always remember and treasure for he was a dedicated family man. He is survived by his wife, Margaret, sons Andy and Noel, daughters Alice, Kay, Marie and Elizabeth, brother Joe, sisters Kitty, Nellie and Mary, sisters and brothers in law, grandchildren, great grandchildren, relatives and many friends. Phil had a simple, strong faith and was a great man to pray; he practised the same approach in this too – talk directly to the Top Man!
Those who worked with him, played with him, knew him, also have their own stories and memories. To all he was a man of integrity, decency and good humour. He exemplified the soul and spirit of the Seán Treacy Pipe Band. He was the guardian and nurturer of its tradition. All of us are the poorer for his passing and yet enriched by the privilege of having known him. In his autobiography, “An tOileánach” – “The Islandman” - Tomás Ó Criomhthain of the Blasket Islands says “Mar ná beidh ár leithéid ann arís – Because our likes will not be there again.” It is an oft quoted phrase yet it can accurately convey what somebody meant to those who knew a special person. We who knew him may justifiably use that phrase in relation to Phil Cooney – His likes will not be there again.
I ríocht Dé go raibh a anam ceolmhar. G.