Fr. Martin, Fr. Cathal, friends, and family:
It’s my privilege to say more than a few words on behalf of Gerard, Declan, and myself.
I’m going to take this opportunity to honor our father as we celebrate his long life. I hope that we’ll be able to laugh, and I hope that we’ll be able to cry, as we remember a great man.
Peter Faughnan was born on August 9, 1923, the fourth son of Paul and Margaret Faughnan, who lived on a small Leitrim farm in the townland of Clooncliva, outside of Mohill.
By all accounts, Dad grew up in a happy family, although it was a hard life on the small farm. The seven boys (TP, Bill, Jimmy-Joe, Peter, Charlie, Sean, and Steve) were very close. These brothers would have always relied on and loved each other. The brothers provided a great example for all of us of what family is and what it should be. (More recently, Dad would visit his brother Bill daily until, sadly, Bill passed in 2009. This was an absolutely lovely relationship for all of us to observe. )
Dad left school before receiving his Intermediate Certificate – help was always needed on the farm and my father loved farming. At the age of 16, he left Leitrim and joined his brothers Jimmy-Joe and Charlie in Dublin. I remember him telling me that he learned his way around by following buses on his bicycle.
While his first job in Dublin was working in a hardware store, his first big job was driving a lorry for CIE. He would eventually move back to Leitrim and spend most of the mid-1960s working in construction. This included the ongoing construction project that was the family home.
Most of his working life was spent in Campbells, a hardware shop in the middle of Carrick. He retired in 1984 at the age of 61.
He married the love of his life, Girlie, on January 16, 1957. While they initially lived in his home place, Clooncliva, they would eventually settle in Cortober, where he lived for almost 60 years.
PETER THE MAN
When someone has lived for 93 years, we have a lot of information about his life. Today I want to talk about:
- Peter the entrepreneur
- Peter the mischief-maker
- Peter the community servant
Peter the Entrepreneur
My father was an entrepreneur long before we even knew what that meant. My mother would often declare, “Your father is a great provider.” He always seemed to be scheming up some idea to generate cash and a better life for us. Some examples include:
- A bed-and-breakfast business catering to anglers.
- Breeding Irish Kennel Club-registered Pomeranian dogs with such exotic names as Sandy, Fifi, Pinky, Perky, and Frisky.
- Selling antiques, hay, silage, and – of course – cows and calves.
Most of these ventures were successful and provided us with a comfortable living. But, of course, he had a few unsuccessful ventures – and stories to go along with them.
In the 1970s, he had a very brief career as a sheep farmer. After purchasing several acres of pasture in Jamestown, he thought that he’d raise sheep on this land. If you are going to buy sheep in county Leitrim, you have to go up into the mountains, so he headed off to Dowra or Blacklion with a trailer. My father loved to haggle, so you know he’d have purchased those six or eight sheep at a good price. These beasts were the kind that had big horns and shaggy coats. Buying one or two sheep each from different farmers, he loaded them in the trailer and off he headed home, delighted with himself. When he got to Jamestown, he and Declan opened the trailer gate and set the sheep free. And the sheep took off! They took one look at the hedges and, sensing freedom, the sheep either jumped over the hedges or ran straight through them. My Dad and Declan could only look on with dismay as the sheep disappeared. Unlike cows, sheep are very, very fast. As the sheep disappeared, so too did any dreams my father might have about becoming a sheep farmer.
There is a moral to this story, which explains part of what went wrong: When you buy sheep from different flocks, they will be afraid of each other and run away.
Later, Dad would have another agriculture-related venture. At some point in the late 1970s, after a successful career breeding dogs, he decided he’d go a bit more exotic and breed bantam cocks: exotic fowl with hairy feet. I don’t think my mother was “in” on this particular idea. Dad arrived home with two bantam cocks and put them in the shed in our back garden. Everything was fine until about half past four the next morning. The bantam cocks announced their arrival – crowing loudly and waking up everyone in Cortober. After a few days of this, my mother gave him an ultimatum: The bantam cocks would have to go.
Being resourceful and somewhat full of mischief, he decided to take the exotic, hairy-footed fowl to his farmer friend Joe Reilly. Joe was a simple man from Northern Ireland and my father convinced him that he was gifting him with two prized Russian gazebos. Joe was over the moon and we heard later that he was down in the pub that night telling everyone (careful not to swear) that (and I quote): “I have two buckin’ Russian gazebos up at the house.”
Peter the Mischief-Maker
As you can see, in addition to being a bit of an entrepreneur, Dad had a great sense of fun and was full of mischief. He could mimic people and enjoyed nothing better than setting up what we today would call a prank.
There was one annual event that used to strike fear in his sons’ hearts. That was the annual fancy-dress party that was “Phil the Fluter’s Ball.”
- One year, he dressed as a guard (policeman), jumping on cars, jumping in cars, and causing general traffic consternation at the town clock.
- Then there was the time he got political. There was a big debate in Carrick-on-Shannon about having a swimming pool. So he and his partner-in-crime, the late Madge Burke, dressed as two tourists visiting Carrick. They headed downtown, he in a skimpy speedo with a rose sticking out of his navel and Madge in a skimpy bikini. Their outfits were paired with sunglasses and big floppy hats. Their sign simply said: WHERE’S THE SWIMMING POOL? Now, let me tell you: this was a pair of 50-year-olds!
- Another year, he dressed up as a woman (again, with Madge Burke). Not having high heels, he emerged as a glamorous woman – wearing Wellington boots. He proceeded over to our home to surprise my mother, who had no idea what he was up to. She simply said, “Peter, you are so silly.”
We, his sons, were mortified, living in fear that people would figure out that he was our father.
The extraordinary thing about this is that he could have all this fun without taking a drink. He was a very proud pioneer. While he loved going out for the night, he would be very careful to always leave the pub promptly at closing time. In his mind, there could be nothing worse than getting caught for after-hours drinking and having “your name in the paper.”
Peter the Community Servant
In the days after his death, we had many neighbors visit the house, saying simply, “He was a great neighbor.” Dad was a community man.
He was a long-serving member of the Carrick Fire Brigade. When the siren would go off, he could be heard shouting, “Girlie, where are my car keys?” Now, my Mother never drove a day in her life – and, while Dad was a notoriously slow driver, he would turn into a Formula 1 driver the minute he heard the siren go off.
He was a long-serving member of the Cortober Bingo Committee. Only illness would keep him from being in this hall on a Sunday night. His actions every Sunday have also stayed with all of us to this day: He would religiously head up to St. Patrick’s Hospital to visit patients. He had a word for everyone and always carried some Emerald sweets.
Dad also would never miss a funeral. He traveled the length and breadth of the county to attend funerals. It was very important for him to pay his respects and honor any family ties. This didn’t always pan out the way he had intended, however. My grandfather and Dad would see a death notice and my grandfather would say, “This is one for us.” A debate would then ensue about the connection or relationship. My grandfather would sometimes end the conversation with, “Dammit, do you not know your own relations?”
One time they went to a funeral in Mullingar, paid their sympathies, gave in the mass card, and, when they finally looked in the coffin, my grandfather whispered to my father: “Bedammit, that’s not him at all!”
These stories provided much laughter for us over the years.
DAD’S LOVE AND KINDNESS
For all these colorful, happy memories, what we will most remember about my father is his love and his kindness.
The first and biggest love of his life was our mother. They met in Elphin, playing badminton. They were an unlikely pair – he from a small farm in Leitrim, she from a sophisticated large farm in Roscommon.
My parents basically eloped; it’s a most beautiful story that my father would delight in telling. My mother lived at home on the family farm and my grandmother was entertaining possible suitors for her daughter. One night, when Dad was dropping Mom home, they saw the car of a potential suitor outside my mother’s home – a much older man, a politician from County Mayo.
My father said to my mother: “If you choose me, meet me outside your house tomorrow at 9 o’clock and we’ll drive to Dublin to get married.” She was, of course, waiting for him the next morning. They stopped to pick up a bridesmaid, Finola Flynn, in Elphin and, when they got to Longford, my father called his brother and said, “We are coming to Dublin to get married.” They were married on January 16, 1957 and enjoyed 46 years of very happy marriage.
Before I move on, I want to pay tribute to our mother. At the time, women were expected to play a somewhat subservient role. It was a very big decision she made – to follow her heart. I know it was a decision that pained her and created severe angst for her family. The payback for my mother was a very devoted husband and we are the beneficiaries of that love.
Later in life, when my mother was ill, Dad spent all of his time at the hospital. He would comb her hair, make her comfortable, and do anything for her. He had to make sure that his queen looked great.
When he was finished taking care of Mom, he’d make his rounds to visit the other women in the ward, taking care to reassure them and help them. One nurse told us that he was like a husband to all the women in the ward. At one point, a very ill woman used to call out for him, saying: “Come here, nurse in the suit.” All of you know he always dressed immaculately well.
Finally, it has to be said that, when we lost our mother, we also lost part of our father. He was not complete without her. After she died, he cried for years. If you visited, he could only talk about her – taking out a red photo album and showing you pictures. He’d tell you how beautiful she was and how happy they were. He would conclude with: “Why did God take her instead of me?”
Their Three Boys
The love Dad had for Mom extended to his three boys. He was a very affectionate man who couldn’t wait to tell you he loved you or give you a kiss. I remember him always wanting to hold our hands. We had no doubt about his love for us.
And here’s where I’ll tell a personal story. In 1993, I decided to go to America for a year. Before I left, I came home to Carrick to say my goodbyes. My mother couldn’t bring herself to come to the railway station when I left, so Dad brought me alone. He had a very bad habit of getting on the train, helping you get settled, and not getting off the train before it left the station – he often had to be rescued from nearby stations, Dromod or Boyle.
This time, I shooed him off the train and he appeared outside my carriage window. Tears were streaming down his face and he ran alongside the train as it left the station. I will never forget him, his love for me, and his love for his three boys. My two brothers also have their own stories.
Mom and Dad’s kindness was not confined to us boys. The nephews and nieces also benefitted from our open home. I honestly don’t know how my mother did it. They were a great team.
And there was one child in particular who won my father’s heart: John Paul. When Dad’s brother Steve needed some help, my father stepped in immediately to say, “We’ll take John Paul.” His own boys were teenagers and John Paul became his fourth son. He adored that gentle, vulnerable little boy who won all of our hearts. After a few years, when it was time for John Paul to go home to Dublin, my Dad was devastated. Fortunately for all of us, John Paul never forgot the role that Dad played in his life.
More recently, Dad loved his grandchildren. The arrival of his first grandchild, Matthew, delighted him. I remember coming home to Riverside House and seeing my mother and father surrounded by grandchildren. It was a joyous time, especially for Dad. I remember him lifting Matthew onto his knees. He’d start whispering some outrageously silly story into his ears and it would end with Dad giving Matt sweets or cash. That was just what Dad always did.
We three sons are filled with gratitude today. At the risk of omitting people, I’d like to mention some special people who have walked with us on parts of this journey:
- Fr. Martin, for welcoming us and for his kindness at this time. My father held you in the highest regard.
- Fr. Cathal for concelebrating.
- Eleanor and Billy for such beautiful music – Dad would be thrilled with the sendoff. And what an beautiful rendition of Amazing Grace – I will never forget it.
- The nursing staff at Drumderrig House Nursing Home and the medical staff at Sligo General. Dad received exception care, especially during his final days.
- The people who brought food to the house and the family that helped at the house – you know we three boys really needed help.
- My brother Gerry and his wife, Phil. My father lived independently in his own home until three years ago. It was a remarkable achievement, only made possible by your remarkable efforts, and I know he would be so proud.
- On behalf of Gerry, Declan, and myself, I want to express our deepest gratitude to my sister-in-law Phil. There are no words that could ever thank you sufficiently for the constant, loving attention you gave to our father. You repeatedly went above and beyond to care for our father. Saying “thank you” will never be sufficient. You have been a great blessing for Dad and for us.
- Aileen O’Boyle. Some years ago we needed to make some decisions about Dad’s care. It was not an easy time and we would not have navigated that time without her help and support.
- Pauric and Annette Burke for their help and support over the past few days. My father knew your father and how you took care of us when our mother died. You should know that he wanted you to be responsible for his arrangements.
And two final thank yous:
- First, to our immediately family. We always pull through for each other. Thank you for walking with us during these past few weeks.
- And to all of you who have attended today, a huge thank you from us and from Peter. He would be delighted that so many of you have come to pay your respects.
Canada: Predator Ridge, Vernon BC V1H0A2
Ireland: Sonoma, Carrick-on-Shannon, Co. Leitrim
Fr.Paul O’ O’Connell here in Georgia USA.
Like myself, you are a long way from hope. Hope life is treating you well.