An era came to an end on February 15, 2015 with the death of farmer Michael Joseph (Mickey Joe) Devine, aged 69, of Lisanurlan.
He could never have been described as conventional but by the same token, there was no business school that could have taught him anything. He was very much his own man and a visit to his famed yard in Lisanurlan was an experience in itself and his house a great gathering place for neighbours and friends.
He didn’t keep conventional hours but if you did get in the big gate a loud bell rang to announce your arrival, Mickey Joe would soon emerge and invariably his beloved dog, Blackie, was on his heel.
He loved meeting the public and it is fair to say you needed a thick skin to engage with Mickey Joe. He gave as good as he got but as many will attest, behind the often stern manner was a heart of gold, a loyal friend and a great neighbour.
Whilst he never married he enjoyed a close family network and also an extensive circle of friends. He was especially happy for their support and companionship as his health declined over recent months.
His turn of phrase was famous and the medical profession or health experts weren’t spared the trademark, rapier wit either.
On one of the last meetings with his consultant, he was told that there wasn’t much more that could be done.
With the tongue firmly in his cheek, Mickey Joe said he wanted his money back. The doctor was no doubt taken aback, but Mickey Joe quickly clarified the matter and explained: “If I’m selling a farmer fertiliser and I told him I wasn’t sure it was going to work or not, he wouldn’t pay me either.”
But in truth, it was testimony to the great man and his unique character, that when he finally came home from Tullamore hospital, there were few there who didn’t know him, and none that didn’t count him as a friend.
One of his great passions was sport and as a younger man he played both soccer and GAA. He wasn’t the fastest man on the field but he was quick to make use of the assets the good Lord gave him and he wasn’t slow about bringing an opposition player back to his own pace – however the means. He delighted in the companionship that came with sport and was especially proud of a junior championship medal, he won with Longford Slashers. He also played with Shroid for a time.
He rarely missed a Longford GAA match and travelled the four corners of the country to watch them. So it was fitting that a county jersey featured in his Funeral Mass.
In latter years he lived for his days out to Croke Park and rarely missed a big game and the tales surrounding the trips on the train, or who he met or cajoled along the way, are now part of folklore.
With the death of Mickey Joe Devine, we’ve lost another link with ‘old Longford’. He was truly an institution and there will never be another like him. He was as good company as you could hope to meet, and a chance encounter with Mickey Joe on a night out always made it memorable.
His other great love was music and in particular country and Irish. His favourite song was the ‘Blue Hills of Breffni’ and so it was only fitting that the unique sound of Paschal Flaherty’s rendition of the Cavan favourite, rang out around Ballymacormack cemetery as the famous Mickey Joe Devine was laid to rest.
He was predeceased by his beloved parents, Michael J and Mary M (nee McGuinness) Devine and his untimely passing is sadly mourned by his loving family; brothers, Thomas and John; sister-in-law Elizabeth, nieces Jacqueline, Joanne, Marie-Therese, Elizabeth and Lucinda; great- nieces, great-nephews; uncles Noel and Andrew, relatives, neighbours and friends.
His remains reposed at his home in Lisanurlan before being brought to St Mel’s Cathedral for Funeral Mass and interment afterwards in Ballymacormack Cemetery.