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Helen highlights the importance of hospice care

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Fulfilling her husband's dying wish led to a young widow's drive to highlight the importance of a hospice which cared for him in his final days.

Kerry Hospice Foundation staff made sure Derry (Jeremiah) O'Leary (44) got to see his favourite horse-racing festival with friends in the comfort of his own home, just weeks before he passed away.

Derry was so impressed with the care and treatment given to him that he asked his heartbroken wife Helen Mannix O’Leary to hold a fundraiser for the centre after his death.

The hugely popular resident of Muckross Road - and native of Inch, Kilcummin - lost his three year battle with lung cancer on April 11, 2020 - COVID-19 restrictions depriving many friends and relatives the chance to say their goodbyes at his funeral.

So Helen staged a coffee morning as a way to say thank you to the hospice for helping her husband keep his independence right up to the end.

She will be doing so again on Thursday, September 22 - and is also asking others to register to host a coffee morning as part of the Bewley’s Big Coffee Morning Social for Hospice at www.hospicecoffeemorning.ie or by calling 0818 995 996.

The nationwide event, which has raised over €41.5 million since its inception, celebrates its 30th anniversary this year.

"We were engaged for 10 years and married for just seven when he died. He was sick for three years, but he put up a great fight," Helen said.

"He was a huge sports fan and a Liverpool supporter but he absolutely adored horse-racing. He went to the Cheltenham Festival each year and to many of the local meetings, where everyone knew him.

"Indeed, it was at the Galway Races that he proposed to me. Due to his illness, he couldn't go to Cheltenham in 2020 and ahead of it, on February 26, he got really sick and was taken to the hospice.

"He made the nursing team promise to have him back home in time to watch the racing on his own TV with friends and relatives."

Horse-racing kept him going through his illness but the hospice ensured his independence until the very end, with everything he needed to pass away at home, she explained.

Together for Hospice, The National Hospice Movement represents 26 hospice and specialist palliative home care providers supporting patients and their families nationwide.

Funds raised locally stay local and go back into each local hospice service, helping to pay for medical and general staff, palliative care beds, home care visits, specialist equipment and new hospice builds.

"COVID-19 restrictions only allowed immediate family to see him at the end and no-one was allowed to attend his funeral. I found this really hard because he was hugely popular in the parish and beyond,” added Helen.

"We were a young couple who didn't even think of sickness when this happened and all of a sudden, we were relying on people to get us through it and that's what the hospice staff did.

"I had to think about how I was going to continue paying the bills and the mortgage as well as other issues like getting a medical card.

"These are basic things that I never thought I'd have to know about and I didn't know the first place to begin looking for answers.

"The hospice staff were incredible. They had a dedicated person to guide me through every step. No question was silly to them and they just knew what to do to make things a little better at every turn.

Derry knew he wouldn't get to hold a fundraiser to say thank you for everything the hospice did and so he made me promise to hold one for them.

“A coffee morning felt like the right thing to do and it gave people who couldn't get to the funeral a chance to get together and remember him with laughter because he was such a character.

"No-one thinks about hospice care until it's needed but unfortunately our story could be anyone else's tomorrow."

Register to host a coffee morning on Thursday, September 22, or on a date that suits you, at: www.hospicecoffeemorning.ie or call-save 0818 995 996. Hosts are provided with a free Coffee Morning Pack containing Bewley’s coffee, posters and invitations.

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Jim awarded for life-long service to the community

By Michelle Crean Listry local Jim O’Shea was honoured last week as members of the community council presented him with an award for his life-long service to the community. Jim […]

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By Michelle Crean

Listry local Jim O’Shea was honoured last week as members of the community council presented him with an award for his life-long service to the community.

Jim received the O’Shea Award for 2022 at a meeting of Directors of Listry Community Council held on September 21.

Jim has been involved in Athletics from a very early age both as a competitor and administrator.

He was very much involved with Community Games in Milltown/Listry as organiser and coach. He was also involved with the Farranfore Maine Valley Athletic Club since its foundation.

Over the years Jim has competed in athletic events, mainly high jump and long jump, both in Ireland and abroad.

Recently he travelled to Derby in the UK in the British Masters Championship and won Gold in the 100 metres and Long Jump and finished second in the High Jump.

Jim, who is a very modest man, was actively involved with Listry Community Council as a volunteer driver for Meals on Wheels and for his commitment to keeping our community litter free by organising a number of litter picking days each year.

Always interested in fitness, Jim often came along to the Listry Seniors Social day and led the group in gentle exercises.

“Jim is a very worthy recipient of the O’Shea Award 2022 and we thank him for a lifetime of service to others,” Tony Darmody, Chairman, said.

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New book recounts stories from the Irish Civil War

The killing of 17-year-old Bertie Murphy in Killarney in September 1922 Historian and author, Owen O’Shea recounts one of the most shocking murders of the Civil War which occurred in […]

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The killing of 17-year-old Bertie Murphy in Killarney in September 1922

Historian and author, Owen O’Shea recounts one of the most shocking murders of the Civil War which occurred in Killarney a century ago this week.

There were many tragic episodes and incidents during the Civil War in Kerry. One of the dreadful features of the conflict was the young age at which many on both sides of the conflict were killed in 1922 and 1923.

In Killarney in August 1922, for example, two young Free State army medics were shot dead by a sniper as they stepped off a boat onto the shore of Inisfallen Island. 18-year-old Cecil Fitzgerald and 20-year-old John O’Meara, both from Galway, had joined the army just a few months previously and were enjoying a boat trip on the lake during a day’s leave when they were killed.

The following month, one of the most shocking deaths to occur in Killarney in this period was the murder of a 17-year-old boy from Castleisland.

Bertie Murphy, a member of Fianna Éireann, the youth wing of the IRA, was just 17-years-old when he was taken into custody by Free State soldiers while walking near his home in September 1922. His mother saw him being taken in away in a truck to the Great Southern Hotel where the army had established its headquarters in the town.

The improvised barracks had a number of prison cells in the basement where anti-Treaty IRA members were detained. The prison would become renowned as a place where beatings and torture took place: a young man whose brother was an IRA captain was taken there and ‘mercilessly beaten to get him to reveal information’. He was then ‘thrown down a coal chute and left as dead’.

On Wednesday, September 27, a Free State army convoy was ambushed by the IRA at Brennan’s Glen on the Tralee road and two officers, Daniel Hannon and John Martin, were killed. Bertie Murphy had been in one of the army vehicles – he was being used by the army as a hostage in an attempt to prevent attacks by anti-Treaty forces. It was common for Free State convoys to carry a prisoner as a deterrent to IRA ambushes and attacks.

When the convoy returned to the hotel, they were met by Colonel David Neligan, one of the most ruthless members of the Kerry Command of the Free State army. Neligan had been a member of Michael Collins’ ‘Squad’ during the War of Independence and was an experienced and battle-hardened soldier.

Neligan demanded to know why the soldiers had not taken any prisoners during the ambush at Brennan’s Glen, in which two of his officers had died. The soldiers, in a frenzy following the ambush, threw Bertie Murphy down the steps of the hotel. In the presence of other soldiers, Neligan began to beat up Murphy at the bottom of the steps and then shot the prisoner. In her book, ‘Tragedies of Kerry’, Dorothy Macardle says that Murphy lived ‘until the priest came’, but died shortly after.

Another prisoner was in custody in the hotel at the time. Con O’Leary from Glenflesk was brought down from his cell to identify the dead man. But so extensive were Murphy’s facial injuries that O’Leary was unable to identify his fellow prisoner.

Newspaper reports wrongly reported that Murphy had been wounded during the engagement at Brennan’s Glen and had ‘succumbed to his injuries’ on returning to Killarney.

At Murphy’s inquest which was held a fortnight later, General Paddy O’Daly, the head of the Kerry Command, sympathised with Murphy’s family but insisted that Murphy had died in the ambush at Brennan’s Glen. He said his soldiers had done ‘everything humanly possible for the man’.

He reminded those present that deaths like Murphy’s were the fault of reckless IRA leaders who refused to accept the authority of the people. ‘It is the women and children’, he said, ‘that are suffering, and for all the suffering that is being endured those leaders are to blame’.

It would not be the last time that O’Daly and senior army officers in Kerry would cover up the actions of their soldiers in the county. Nor, sadly, would it be the last time that young men, on both sides of the divide, joined the long list of victims of the Civil War in the county.

Owen O’Shea’s new book, ‘No Middle Path: The Civil War in Kerry’ will be published by Merrion Press in mid-October and can be pre-ordered now on Amazon and at www.owenoshea.ie.

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