Last week was a week of sadness for our family following the death on Wednesday evening of Michael ‘Mick’ Kennedy of Tullycleave, Ardara. Mick had to finally submit to the cancer that he fought a brave and dignified battle against for the past two and a half years.
Mick was known far and wide and particularly in South West Donegal, since he first arrived from his birthplace of Tuam, Co.Galway as a fishing apprentice in 1959. He served his time on the ‘Girl Eileen’ under Mossie Moore, and with Seamus Tully on the ‘Carrig Una’, before he eventually moved to England with his wife to be, Breege Watters.
Following his marriage to Breege in England in 1965, they eventually came back to Donegal, and after a short time at sea again on the ‘Carrig Una’ with his lifelong friend Denis Carbery, he finally came ashore for good, settling down in Breege’s home townland of Tullycleave, where they would raise their five children, John, Karen, Michael, Michelle and Charlene.
Mick and Breege would eventually become well known for running some of the most successful venues in the South-West during the 70s 80s and 90s. Fintra House, The Maas Inn, The Narin Inn, the heady days of the Blue Haven Kilcar, and eventually back to Ardara to manage The Nesbitt Arms, and Brennans Bar with young Michael and Charlene.
Mick had also spent a number of years working as sales manager with John Molloy Ardara Ltd, where he travelled the country generating sales at the height of the knitwear boom.
In latter years he had also taken to the road in his wee white van selling fish around the county, where many’s a cup of tae was had in houses around Donegal.
In the past few years, he could often be seen helping out behind the bar in the Narin and Portnoo Golf Club with Michael and Charlene. Often making the phone call to the Clubhouse when things might be busy, “Do ye need a hand down dere” he would say, before hopping in the car to save the day. He had a great memory for names and faces, and if you ordered a drink from Mick once, you could come back a year later and he would be able to tell you what you wanted at first glance, the sign of a great barman.
The Golf Club had also become a big part of this life after he took up the game relatively late in life after being coaxed down by fellow publican Jamsie Gallagher. He really enjoyed his Monday fourball, as well as the various outings with the Ardara and Dolmen Golf Societies. The Annual ‘Ryder Cup’ games with neighbours Glenties was also a very important date in the calendar each year for him.
It was a cruel irony, that only a few short months after qualifying for the pension, that he got the news of his throat cancer, which would see him go through a terrible time during treatment. We all thought it would eventually clear and let himself and Breege finally enjoy a retirement which they richly deserved after also having cared lovingly for Granny Kitty, in the last years of her life. The news that the cancer had returned elsewhere in September was the devastating news that we all knew would take him sooner rather than later. The way that he fought on regardless, never complaining, was a sign of the man, and his courage was an example to all who seen it first hand. We must also be grateful for being able to have him at home for his last Christmas and for his peaceful passing, knowing that Breege and the children and his extended family could have done no more for him to make him comfortable in his last weeks on this earth.
The crowds at his wake on Thursday and Friday and Funeral on Saturday were a testament to his popularity and the many people who befriended him on his journey through life. People recalled many stories about him and the catchphrases that he used behind the bar. “How’s it goin dere..?”, “Mind the Shtep”, “Are ye going for a few scoops?” and most of all..” Up the Wesht..!” in a strong Galway accent that never waned despite his 50 years in Donegal.
His loss will be deeply felt by Breege, his children, grand-children brothers and sisters, and extended family and friends. The family will acknowledge all those who helped them and Mick during his illness in due course. In the meantime, we trust that he is finally re-united with his mother Anne and father Richard, and is making up for lost time. He is probably also making a wee ‘hot totty’ for Granny Kitty and maybe even having a ‘few scoops’ himself..!
The accompanying photo shows that familiar stance behind the bar in the work that he enjoyed so much. To sum him up in a brief sentence, Mick Kennedy was a gentleman, and that one word probably describes him best. He definitely was ‘The Besht in the Wesht.’ We will all miss him dearly. May he rest in peace.
(J Mc C)