Longford bids farewell to Brendan Connolly: A giant of a man with a heart of gold

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Great sadness greeted the news recently of the death of a Longford town stalwart, Brendan Connolly. Born and bred in Templemichael Terrace, he grew up in a busy but fairly typical home of that era with his seven brothers and four sisters.

Whilst times were tough in 1940s Longford, Brendan revelled in his upbringing and many years later still spoke fondly of playing with his lifelong friends at the Buttermilk farm or the toughest of football at the Fair Green (now Mollaghan’s Furniture store).

Summers were spent swimming in the Camlin and everyday was a new adventure.

Neighbours’ doors were never locked and friendships formed and cherished until Brendan bid us farewell on Saturday, January 30, 2021.

There were many facets to Brendan’s life. As a teenager he enjoyed his FCA days and especially those trips to Finner Camp.

There was literally an exodus of young friends from Longford for the two week FCA camp in the 1950s and it is still amazing to think that they were allowed to return home with their 303 rifles. The real bonus was two weeks pay which seemed a huge amount of money to the young men.

Like so many others, including family members, Brendan made his way to London in 1962 to work on the buildings in the fastest growing city in Europe. He made his way to the Irish mecca of North London where a favourite Saturday night haunt was the 32 Club in Harlesden.

One fateful night in 1967 changed his life for the better when he met his future wife, Elma, from Shanagolden in West Limerick.

They were perfectly matched and soon resolved to spend their lives together returning to get married in Limerick in 1970.

They were a wonderful couple and shared the highs and lows and in truth we rarely saw one without the other. They settled in London for many years, where three of their four children were born - John, Kevin and Helen.

Brendan never feared work and until the day he retired was truly never out of work. A famous UK drama series, Auf Wiedersehen Pet, chronicled the lives of a group of English brick layers on a German building site in the 1980s. But Brendan was ahead of the game when he went to work in Poland for two years in 1978. Still behind the Iron Curtain, the Soviet statelet was very different to the fast pace of fashionable London and it very much reinforced in Brendan the inequalities of the world.

His time there coincided with the famous ‘Winter of the Century’ in 1979 where temperatures hit minus 40 and 3 feet of snow covered the building sites.

In later years and when anybody complained about the cold, Brendan regaled them with tales of these days and how if you poured a glass of water out the window it would turn to ice before it hit the ground.

The family moved back then to Ireland in 1981 and lived in Ardagh, West Limerick where their fourth child, Dessie, was born. But much like the 1960s Longford which he had left, Limerick in the ‘80s had limited job opportunities.

Brendan wasn’t to be deterred and made the tough decision to go to the Falkland Islands in the early eighties to work for 18 months on the building of the Mount Pleasant airport after the Falklands War. It was as bleak an outpost as you could imagine but he still embraced his time there and it exemplified the work ethic and values which he strove to instill in his four beloved children.

There probably wasn’t a happier man in Longford town than Brendan when the family finally returned to settle down here in 1987. He was delighted to start work at the power station in Lanesboro, where he spent twenty very enjoyable years until his retirement in 2007. He made many great friends through the ESB and none would have been sadder than Brendan when the station finally stopped generating power a few weeks ago.

For a generation who grew up in 1990s Longford, the late Brendan Connolly, played an important part in their lives. He was a doorman at the famed Blazers nightclub for a number of years and the mere sight of his large frame was enough to query the fire in any potential situation.

Many times though he was there to help and guide the young lad who drank too much and went out of his way to ensure that all got home safely. These were small gestures but indicative of this giant of a man, who had a heart of gold and the profoundest sense of compassion and goodness imaginable.

In later years, Brendan loved swimming in the pool and settled several world crises and economic disasters in the steam room and jacuzzi with his early morning Longford Arms swimming pool friends. Unfortunately, it seemed none of the world leaders were listening and next day saw them trying to sort the same problems again.

Brendan was at his happiest when surrounded by family and especially his beloved grandchildren. He loved to travel (just not the flying part) and twice made the journey to Australia but was probably happiest strolling the beach at Ballybunion, Co Kerry.

The famous St Mel’s Cathedral was a major influence in Brendan’s life and he was truly heartbroken when it was destroyed by fire in 2009. Brendan was a man of great faith and he received his Baptism, Holy Communion and Confirmation in St Mel's Cathedral so it was fitting that his funeral mass was in a place he cherished.

Many friends and old neighbours came out and stood in a socially distanced, silent and fitting tribute as he made the final journey from his home in Foynes Court to St Mel’s Cathedral.

Brendan was predeceased by his parents Malachy and Mary Ellen; brothers Noel, John, Jimmy, Dessie and Bernie and sisters Dolores Flaherty, Maureen Walsh, Kathleen Quinn and Betty Conway.

His passing is deeply mourned by his heartbroken wife, Elma; devoted, sons and daughter, John, Kevin, Dessie and Helen Richardson; daughters-in-law Lorraine, Deirdre and Diane; son-in-law Kris, adoring grandchildren Rachel, Darragh, Ava, Kyle, Caitlín and Eoin; brothers Tony and Frank, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, nieces, nephews, relatives and a large circle of friends.