THE LATE NOEL DOLAN - Noel Dolan, a native of Ballinamore and a long-serving officer of the Leitrim Society of New York, died at his home in Bergenfield, New Jersey on February 10th 2011.
Noel is survived by his wife Sheila, by his sons Kevin and Tom, daughters Sheila, Maureen, Kathleen and Deirdre, by his sons in law and daughters in law, his 18 grandchildren and by his brother Peter (who was a star player with the Leitrim Minor team in the 1946 All Ireland Final) and by his sister Eileen.
The Carrickmakeegan Tragedy of 1942 is forever etched in the memories of the people of Ballinamore, when six young people from the town lost their lives in a boating accident on the Shannon-Erne Waterway, at a very deep point where the canal enters Garadice Lake.
Those who drowned were Sean Dolphin, Seamus Wisley, Maureen Rowley, Maureen Moran, Carmel Prior and Minnie Walsh.
The tragedy would have been much greater but for the bravery of Noel Dolan who managed to drag two girls to safety and who joined with other rescuers in saving the lives of the remainder of the group of friends.
Noel’s heroic efforts were acknowledged by the Coroner and by a spokesman for the parents at the subsequent inquest into the tragedy.
In the intervening years there has always been a close bond between the survivors and also between the families who lost their children and Noel Dolan has remained a hero to them all.
The last remaining survivor of that tragic August day at Carrickmakeegan is Mrs Bernadette Spollen, sister of Seamus Wisley. Just some weeks ago another survivor from that day, Sheila Martin of High Street, died at her home in Dublin.
A number of songs were composed in tribute to and in memory of the victims and in all of these the heroism of Noel Dolan was acknowledged.
In late 1942 Noel, who had attended Ballinamore Boys’ National School, Ballinamore Vocational School and Clongowes Wood College, started an apprenticeship with CIE, qualifying as a machinist. Six years later he emigrated to England and in the following year joined the Merchant Navy with the British India Steam Company as an engineer and this took him on the high seas to places like Bombay, Basra, Singapore, Madras, Dubai and Sydney.
In 1954 Noel decided to emigrate to the USA and settled in Chicago. It was here, in 1958, that he was to meet his future wife, Sheila Maguire, from Druminchingore, near Newtowngore. Though they had grown up within a short distance of each other, they had never met until a chance encounter in Chicago. Noel and Sheila married in 1960 and took up residence in Bergenfield, the New Jersey town that became their home.
For a number of years Noel worked with the US Government in a Brooklyn shipyard and was to receive a Citation for Bravery for his heroics on the day a raging fire broke out on the aircraft carrier USS Constellation.
Noel later worked with PATH in New York and then joined the famed Macy’s Store on 34th Street at 7th Avenue as their air-conditioning engineer, a position he held until his retirement in 1997.
Noel and Sheila inculcated a great love of Irish traditions, music and dance in their children and they were to become world class Irish dancers, competing regularly at the World Finals in Dublin. Kevin danced at one final with the future Riverdance and Lord of The Dance star Michael Flatley. The Dolans were well known entertainers at countless Leitrim and Irish celebrations in the New York area and indeed their talents have been passed on to the next generation of the family.
In 2004 Noel and Sheila were honoured with the Distinguished Service Award by the Leitrim Society of New York at their annual Gala Dinner, on the night another well known Leitrim man, Shane Flynn of Carrick on Shannon, was Guest of Honour, in recognition of his appointment as Chief Executive MBNA Europe and of his efforts in influencing MBNA to open their office in his home town.
Rain or shine, Noel Dolan was a regular in Gaelic Park, New York and he maintained a life-long love of the GAA, with a special interest, of course, in the Leitrim Club and in all players and teams visiting from Ireland and most especially from Leitrim. He was a dedicated member of the Leitrim Society, serving for many years as a Trustee and was always to the fore in the various activities of the Society.
Serious illness in recent years did not deter Noel from his involvement and he never lost keen interest in all things Leitrim. Indeed, when the Aughawillan Drama Group performed their play Wake in the West in Yonkers, New York in November 2010, Noel was in the audience with his wife Sheila and his brother in law John Maguire and relished meeting many friends from home and from the wider New York area on the night.
This love of Ballinamore and Leitrim stayed with him to the end and in his final days he recounted many stories from his youth around Ceannabo to his close friend Brendan Wisley, who had travelled especially to New Jersey to be with Noel and his family in those final days.
There was a huge turnout of family, friends, members of the Leitrim Society and the Irish American community at Noels wake, Funeral Mass and burial in Bergenfield, all joining in celebration of the life of a very special man.
Sincere sympathy is extended to Noel’s wife Sheila, their family and extended family, his brother and sister, his brother in law John Maguire new York and sister in law, Mrs Eileen McGovern, Corduff, Garadice and to his many relatives, including his cousins Paddy and Michael Dolan, Ballinamore and to his many, many friends,
.Go n-déana Dia trócaire ar a anam uasal.