As Mick and I were on our way home from Nenagh on the Monday before he died the conversation was mostly about our time in the Army and the journeys we travelled together going back to February 1960 when our paths crossed for the first time. Little did I think that the journey were then on would be our last one together.
Mick died peacefully at home on Sunday August 18th. and while I was aware he hadn’t enjoyed the best of health in recent times, his sudden and untimely death came as a huge shock to his comrades in the O.N.E. (Organisation of National Ex-Servicemen and Women) Pierse McCan Branch and Post 18 of the United Nations (UN) Veterans Association in Thurles. A native of Gortnahoe, Mick enlisted in his local Unit of the FCA at the tender age of 15 years. Some years later while still shy of his 17th.birthday he joined the Regular Army and in 1958 he transferred to Battalion Headquarters (FCA) in what was then McCan Barracks in Templemore (now the Garda College) as store man/driver and that was the beginning of a long association with Templemore. He was held in the highest esteem by all ranks in the Unit during his 42 years service and the attendance of so many of his former Army/FCA comrades at his removal from Greys Funeral Home – and his requiem Mass and burial – was testament to his popularity. A Guard of Honour was provided by members of the branch of which he was a founder member and were joined by O.N.E. personnel from Clonmel, Kildare and Nenagh also members of the United Nations Veterans Association (I.U.N.V.A.) from Thurles. The Gav, as he was often referred to, had many noble attributes and regardless of what he applied himself to, he did so with honest endeavour”. Michael was an honorable soul and disliked controversy and the limelight with equal measure. The Gav completed in the 21 years service in the Army and was still young enough to re-join the 9th. Field Battery (FCA) and serve a further 21 years, and through his long service he became something of a legend in the Regiment. On the 12th. of February 1960 when the convoy delivering the artillery guns was entering McCan Barracks, the Gav was part of a three man welcoming committee and as previously mentioned that was the first time I met the man.
Mick was a veteran of the Congo and in later years completed two tours with the United Nations in Cyprus. While in Cyprus I discovered he a competitive side to him when he arrived one evening at the camp where I was based as a member of Headquarters Company dart team and not too many of his comrades were privy to that side of him., He had a tremendous sense of humour which he needed to have bearing in mind the comrades he served with. That said they were an extremely loyal and were always willing to support each other when called upon. Mick has now joined that illustrious band of Bobby Ryan, Geeser Whelan, Tony Foran, Johnny Kelly, Martin Hough, Nedser O’Toole, Eric Byrne, Johnny Morrissey, Davy Lennon and Wing Commander Bobby Kavanagh, all of whom have earned their silver wings. “Let Us Remember”. When it came to cooking and catering, Mick was in a class of his own. “MasterChef 9th.F.A. Battery”. Which reminds me of an annual camp sometime in the 1970’s when he informed me that boiled chicken was on the menu for later in the evening and having other duties to attend to he left “yours truly” in charge, a fatal mistake!. To say the chicken was cooked or boiled is an understatement and as it was being removed the chicken literally fell asunder. Apart from plenty of bones little else was left, and as the years rolled by he occasionally reminded me of the chicken. In other words I wasn’t allowed to forget!! .For all of fifty years we were neighbours on Marian Road, Templemore, and we served in the Army together at home and overseas and that comradeship was renewed on becoming members of O.N.E. and I.U.N.V.A. I was honoured when Michael asked me to be his best man when he married Marie in 1961, and to be considered a close friend of Michaels was the ultimate honour.
The Gav was laid to rest with full honours. Cillian Roche (pipes) played a lament and Charlie Parson (trumpet) sounded the last post and reveille.
On behalf of his comrades in the O.N.E. branch and Post 18 I.U.N.V.A., deepest sympathy is extended to Marie, daughters Caroline and Annmarie, sons Brian, Michael and Martin, brother Connie, sister Mary, son-in-law Donal, daughters –in-law Kim and Cabernet, grandchildren, nieces, nephews and extended family members.
Sadly, the road we travelled together for so long has finally come to an end.
Adios my friend
The road we have travelled
Has come to an end
Rest in peace Mick.