The late Sean Griffin with his wife Madeleine and son Shane. INDD0607 Griffin 1 MVB
The passing of the late Sean Griffin in Donegal town last week has evoked many fond memories of the man who was deeply involved in the community both at home and abroad.
Sean was born in 1933 into the rural community of Turris Hill outside of Mountcharles village and like all children of the time went to the local school in the village.
After completing his education Sean decided that America held out the best options for him. In the early 50's there were very little employment opportunities in Donegal and many of his friends had already emigrated.
Sean went to New York at the age of 2o and was fortunate that he already had some Donegal contacts there - his sisters Bridie (deceased) and Ena Campbell now living in Inver. This made the transition from Turris Hill much easier for a man who, up to the day of his passing, had a great love for his native Donegal.
He was also very fortunate in meeting up with another well known Donegal man, the late Eunan Curristan who later owned the television and electrical shop on Quay Street.
Sean and Eunan shared an apartment there and were both deeply involved in the Irish community in New York through GAA circles and other Donegal affinity groups.
His son Shane told the Democrat, “Dad was always known to be a great talker and even though he was only twenty years of age he managed to talk his way into getting a job as a bus driver in uptown Manhattan.
“He told me that at his interview when asked had he ever driven a bus before his reply was 'no problem, I have driven many around Turris Hill and Mountcharles.' It was fortunate that the interviewer had not much geographical knowledge of Ireland.”
Sean always had a great love of Donegal and in reality only saw New York as a means to an end - his intention was always to return home and start his own business.
This determination meant working around the clock to save enough money to return. During the day he drove the bus and at night time he worked in the bars of Manhattan. As it turned out the bar experience in New York proved very valuable to him in his later years.
At one stage when at home from New York, Sean spotted a young and beautiful girl called Madeleine Monaghan. He immediately turned to his good friend, the recently deceased Paul Gallagher and said, “I am going to marry that girl.”
True to his nature Sean kept his word and married Madeline 1n 1961.
At that stage Sean had bought a small grocery store on Main Street in Donegal and this quickly evolved into a very successful bar and all Ireland winning restaurant.
During his time in the grocery business Sean was know to be a very kind and generous person often giving to people discreetly when he knew circumstances were tough. This was something he never talked about but just quietly got on with it.
Apart from being a loving couple Madeleine and Sean formed the ideal business partnership. Sean used his experience in the bars of New York to great effect while Madeline focussed in creating great food.
The Talk of the Town played host to some of the top acts including The Dubliners, Dickie Rock and even Daniel O'Donnell got a stint on the stage,
Shane said, “Dad just liked to give everybody a chance and immediately he could recognise the talent of Daniel in those early years.”
During all these years Sean maintained a great love of both his local club the Four Masters and the county team. A great source of pride to him was when in both 1972/74 his brother- in- law Donal Monaghan brought back the Anglo Celt to the Talk of the Town and then later seeing Donegal winning the All Ireland against Dublin on that memorable Sunday in 1992.
Sean was also very active in local politics and a prominent member in the Fianna Fáil party. This stemmed from his early friendship with former minister Joe Brennan and later all the Coughlan family.
He may never have stood for political office but he rarely missed a Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis in Dublin.
He got to know a lot of people through his political activities and used his connections to secure employment for many around Donegal Town.
Shane recalled, “He was also a great man for going to wakes along with the late Dom Breslin. On one occasion the two of them headed over to a wake through Barnes Gap direction and as was the custom sympathised with all on the way in. On reaching the remains, Dom took one look and saw thatthey didn't know the deceased and immediately turned around to Dad and said, 'We're in the wrong house, let's get out of here'.”
Keen to expand his business Sean and Madeline sold the Talk of the Town and bought the Manhattan in the centre of the town which he ran successfully for many years.
Having spent almost 30 years in the bar trade Sean felt the time was right to get out and took up a position with the Civil Service in Letterkenny which allowed him more free time.
However, the Mountcharles man was not a man known to stand still and also did some taxi work in Donegal Town.
He was one of those people who just loved company and took great enjoyment out of chatting about old times with people.
Both Madeline and Sean were inseparable - if you saw one, you saw the other. That was just the type of couple they were.
Shane remembers his father as a really great father, “I could really talk to him and have some great conversations about the earlier days in Donegal .
“There was nothing left unsaid between us. I will miss him dearly as will my mother.”
Due to illness Sean spent the last few years of his life in Arás Mhic Suibhne in Mullnasole where he was treated with great care and kindness by all the team. He was never short of visitors and in reality it became his some from home with Madeline visiting him every day.
At his funeral mass on Saturday last in Donegal, Shane delivered a very emotional tribute to his father and concluded by quoting the Bible saying “I fought the good fight, I finished the race and never lost the faith.”
Sean is survived by his wife Madeline, son Shane, sister Ena Campbell (Inver), predeceased by his sisters Bridie, Molly, Annie, and his brothers Peter and George and a large extended family and many friends.
May he rest in peace.