The late Michael "Mickey" Rooney
It is with great sadness that we mark the passing of a colourful and well-loved character of the area, Michael "Mickey" Rooney of St Bridget's Terrace, Bundoran, where he lived all his life.
Mickey was predeceased by his parents, Paddy, formerly of Ballyshannon, and his mother, Bridget McLaughlin of Manorhamilton; his brothers Tom, Jim and Joe. He is survived by seven nieces and nephews.
Mickey was born in April 1934, and his first job was as a child of around 10, as a visitor guide to the Catsby Caves near the Abbey Well, Ballyshannon.
When he was a little older, along with other local boys he was trained in weaving wool. A shed was built in the back yard, and a loom installed, where he spent many hours stretching to years being deafened by the noise, weaving Donegal tweed. His dad took care of the business side of things, and they were quite successful, selling to such customers as Magees of Donegal and even Harrods of London, together with individual customers.
Mickey had a huge sense of mischief and was not averse to telling mature American ladies at the height of the Troubles in the 1970s that they were in fact in Ulster.
Towards the very end of the '70s he got a job with the council overseeing cars attending the local 'dump', and soon after was asked to be a beach guard. At least one of his nieces used to delight in telling her friends that her uncle was a lifeguard who couldn't swim a stroke, but of course he did a great job of manning the phone, looking after equipment, doing rotas for the lifeguards, and of course shouting through the megaphone to warn bathers "man with the baldy head - keep to the middle."
He got on tremendously with the lifeguards, and this job opened up a whole new chapter of his life. He knew he was doing an important job and loved the camaraderie and the social life!
Unfortunately, he eventually developed melanoma for which he was successfully treated, but it ended his beach days. However, this led him to yet another chapter, fundraising for the Friends of St Luke's cancer charity, in particular funding rooms for local people to stay in when family members were having treatment in Dublin. He characteristically threw himself into this wholeheartedly, driving up and down the county and beyond, promoting and selling tickets for big events such as dinner dances which were always well-attended, and sometimes having such VIP guests as Jack Charlton. His lifeguard friends also helped, and there were other events such as the (for a time, annual) sponsored Bay swim, and sponsored bed push. Mickey, along with a number of other local people, raised a great deal for this worthy charity, and he was duly deservedly presented with an award at a special presentation.
Mickey enjoyed these years hugely, as he was welcomed into many homes and met and chatted to hundreds of people, and had a real sense of achievement for a cause close to his heart.
The family had over many previous years been involved in sport, his father was a hurler and footballer and his brothers all footballers. Mickey would talk sadly of "the curse of emigration" as local football teams saw their numbers dwindle to almost nothing, players having gone to England or further afield in search of work in the '50s.
He still loved to watch it though, and traveled to many a match. He even donated his loom to be burnt on one of the beacon bonfires in celebration of Donegal winning their first All-Ireland Final and bringing home the Sam Maguire Cup in 1992. Later years saw him more often watching the GAA on television, and he would give you short shrift if you interrupted his viewing!
He also made a number of trips to England to visit family, and even went in later years unexpectedly on a holiday with a local friend to America, returning with many stories, of course, and he had a gift for somehow searching out links to the area in almost everyone he met.
Later years also saw him walking out with his dog Lucky, always of course stopping for a laugh and a yarn with his numerous friends and neighbours, and also spending many happy hours with those same good friends and neighbours, often starting a heated discussion and then leaving them to finish it. He was extremely well looked after in his latter years.
Mickey had to stay in the Sheil Hospital, Ballyshannon in the last year or two due to ill health, and died peacefully 28th January after a short final illness. He was waked in his home in Bundoran, and his funeral was held in Bundoran, followed afterwards by burial at the Rock in Ballyshannon, all of which were very well-attended.
Mickey had some favourite sayings, but one of his favourite quotes was from the poem by Allingham, "Adieu to Ballyshanny". He would visit his brother who was in a home in England, and would greet him with "Adieu to Ballyshanny, where I was bred and born, Go where I may, I’ll think of you, as sure as night and morn;" and he would reply, "The kindly spot, the friendly town, where every one is known, And not a face in all the place but partly seems my own," and they would finish the verse together. He always had a huge fondness for Ballyshannon, but he was really a Bundoran man, and of course a Donegal man through and through, and the words could just as easily apply to Bundoran.
Mickey's friendship, cheerful nature, love of life and sense of fun will be sorely missed by his friends and family, but we were glad to have known him.