The late Jim Phelan, Graignagour, Ballymacarbry

Family man, farmer, community activist and proud Waterford hurling follower

Obituary Jim Phelan

The late Jim Phelan

With great sadness we record the recent death of Jim Phelan, Graignagour, Ballymacarbry. Co Waterford on July 26th after a brief illness in the hugely supportive care of staff at Bon Secours Hospital, Cork.

He was surrounded by his family in the last couple of weeks of his life and passed peacefully in the loving presence of his wife Brigid Phelan nee Costin, his sons James and Shane and his daughters Anne and Cora. The family are deeply appreciative of the hugely generous support showed by their extended family and a tremendous network of friends and neighbours who rallied around Jim.

Jim was born on April 1st 1934 in Graignagour. His parents were Patrick and Margaret Phelan nee Hickey and he was the second oldest in a family of seven. He is pre-deceased by his older sister Nuala Condon and he is survived by his younger siblings, John, Paddy, Tom, Anne and Brid.

After a brief period of schooling in Bennet’s Church, Jim’s education was curtailed when his father died in 1945. As the oldest boy, Jim was needed at home on the land from a very young age.

Though a very tough era, Jim’s immersion in agriculture and passion for the land was ingrained in him from then on. So began a life-long affinity and interest in dairy farming in particular. The hillside farm of Graignagour was gradually reclaimed and extended during Jim’s lifetime.

And Jim’s good work is being continued by his son Shane. It was a source of immense pride for Jim when Shane’s progressive improvements and methods were rewarded with a nomination for Young Farmer of the Year in 2011.

Jim met his wife Brigid when he was a selector for the local camogie team in Ballymacarbry. Brigid Costin actually hailed from Ring and had no direct connection to Ballymac bar friendship with local pal Maureen Ryan who recruited her for the fledgling camogie team.

Brigid went on to have a stellar camogie career and quickly developed a real lasting connection to Ballymacarbry when they were married in Ring in October 1969 by family friend Father Michael Enright. The reception was held in the Majestic Hotel in Tramore.

Jim and Brigid were true partners in life and farming as they worked side by side through some tough economic times. Yet their mutual interest in farming and unstinting effort to support their family of five children forged a strong bond that lasted through Jim’s retirement right up to his recent passing.

Jim was very active in the local community. He was on the committee that built and ran the first local hall. He was also one of many local men from Graignagour and the Nire Road who hand-crafted and created the striking grotto outside Ballymacarbry from sheer rock. Jim was a man of faith and collected money at Fourmilewater church for several decades.

He was a big supporter of local and county GAA. He would regularly chat on the phone with his New York based brother John about the in and outs of hurling and football.

The recent fine form of Fourmilewater and Waterford were given a very personal slant due the proximity of the Barron family farm to the Phelan homeplace. Jim was exceedingly proud that the industry and skill of Jamie Barron, the son of his very close neighbours Jimmy and Siobhan, was so integral to the rich vein of success enjoyed on the pitch in recent years.

In his later years, Jim made up for lost time travel-wise when he saw a vast proportion of the world with many trips enjoyed via Teagasc tours.

He really enjoyed the camaraderie and company of fellow farmers and he was never short of issues to discuss in detail in this area. His lifetime in farming spanned an era of vast change from horse drawn farm equipment right up to the high tech modern approaches of today. And he stayed abreast of it all.

He also served on the dairy committee of Glanbia for many years and his interest in agriculture never waned. In the last months of his life, he proudly brought his daughter in law Anita around Dungarvan Mart to help her study for her Green Cert. The mart was always a huge business and social outlet in his life and he was in his element among fellow farmers.

Jim had certain routines. Playing cards locally on a Friday night was a fixture in the schedule. It was only 45 – so major money was never won or lost. Jim was also a practitioner of visiting his neighbours in the countryside. It sounds simple and it is but it’s a tradition that is dying out.

This is the kind of visiting where you don’t ring ahead, you just land in. You might get a locked door or no car in the yard but that’s the chance you take. He had his own little circuit including his late sister Nuala and her husband Maurice.

He’d pop into his nephew John Condon on his tour. And he had wonderful friends like Anthony and Margaret Ryan and again his nearest and dearest neighbours, the aforementioned Barron family to call on too.

Like so many lives, Jim’s was not untouched by tragedy. Twenty five years ago, his oldest son Gerard passed away prematurely in his early twenties. It was a huge blow but with time and support, Jim maintained a positive attitude towards life and took great solace in his growing family.

His daughter Anne married into farming outside Clonmel and gave him his first grandkids with Daniel, Aoibhín and Luke holding a special place in his heart. His daughter Cora works in banking in Dublin. Her three sons Dylan, Jacob and Seth were a great source of pride to him too.

Only two years ago, the hill of Graignagour was graced with Shane and Anita’s first child Noah. Jim was especially excited to have a grand-child so close to home and Noah was the loving focus of his last few years.

Jim’s son and namesake James is a successful screenwriter for animation, film and TV. James’ latest drama was the massively popular ‘Striking Out’ on RTE. His other projects include two seasons of the hit series ‘Rasai na Gaillimhe/ Galway Races’ for TG4. In April of this year, James won the IFTA for Best Writing for TV Drama for the scripts of the highly inventive 1916 mini series ‘Wrecking the Rising’.

The Phelan family would like to profoundly and profusely thank the staff of Bon Secours Cork who went above and beyond the call of duty in tending to Jim in his last days. Their care and generosity will be long remembered. As will the support of the accommodation facilities provided by the charity Bru Columbanas in Cork. This amazing resource is reliant on charitable contributions and again, the grace and generosity of their staff was a bright spot during a mostly dark time. Though thankfully due to the impeccable care he received, Jim’s passing was mainly bereft of pain and any suffering.

As per his own wishes, Jim was waked at Shane and Anita Phelan’s home and buried after Funeral Mass in Fourmilewater cemetery on July 29th. He was deeply loved and will be deeply missed especially this week with his beloved Deise in the All Ireland Final, something he would dearly loved to have lived to see.