Late Tomás Deegan
Tomás Deegan, late of Davitt Terrace, Dublin Road, Thurles, was called home on May 15, a few months short of his 80th birthday.
Tom, as he became known when he migrated to Dublin in 1958, to take up a position with Aer Lingus, was the middle son of Jack Deegan (Thurles) and Dolly O’Connell (Littleton), brother of Pádraig, who died in 1997, and Seán, who was well known in the town as a tennis player in his youth and as a founding member of Thurles Town FC.
Tom and his two brothers were Dublin-born and lived in the capital where their father taught in Whitefriar Street National School. Securing the position of principal teacher in Two-Mile-Borris NS, Tom’s father moved the family back to within five miles of where he’d been brought up on what is now called Dublin Road, the three lads presumably quickly dropping their Dublin accents to fit in with their new surroundings.
Sadly, Tom’s father passed away within 18 months of returning to Tipp, and the lads’ mother was faced with the prospect of raising them single-handedly. She did this heroically from their new base in Davitt Terrace, though under the supportive eye of their uncle, Christy, such a well-known character in Thurles.
Christy worked for a time with O’Meara’s Mineral Waters, before donning the soutane as sacristan at the Cathedral, through which employment it is rumoured he met his wife-to-be, Teresa, a Clare woman, from the village of Cooraclare.
Tom and Seán were keen tennis players, perhaps partly because the tennis club was based on the Deegan family fields, which recently passed out of the family on the death of Teresa Deegan.
Tom, though an avid follower of Everton, through his mother’s family connections with Liverpool, favoured hurling over Gaelic football and soccer.
Seán, though also a lover of hurling, played without consideration for the famous ban on soccer, perhaps explaining his failure to make the Thurles CBS Harty Cup team.
Tom continued to hurl in Dublin, regularly togging out for his club in Phoenix Park, where most Dublin GAA matches were played in those days, and also for the Aer Lingus works team, which featured in the summer business houses’ leagues and which also flew the shamrock in games in the US East Coast and against student priests in the Irish College, Rome.
Tom, before and after he met the love of his life, Mary, whom he met in 1962 and married in 1967, was a devoted and attentive nephew and cousin to his Deegan and O’Connell relatives who had set up home in Dublin.
Tom spent many happy years in Aer Lingus, getting off to the perfect start on his first day, where he discovered that his supervisor was none other than a fellow Tipp man, Paddy Dwan, who, hard to believe it would happen today, had a puck around with Tom at their lunch break.
Despite being very hands-on and supportive of Mary in the raising of their four children, and, because of the nature of airline business, often doing shift work, Tom attended night lectures in UCD, graduating with a B.Comm degree, in 1978.
A member of Glasnevin Tennis Club for many years, where, in keeping with his sense of community service, he helped to organise coaching for young members, Tom played a game of doubles a couple of weeks before his death.
Tom was an understated man who did not seek attention for his qualities and his talents, leaving it to others to do so at his funeral Mass in Dublin, celebrated appropriately by his great friend and school days’ neighbour, Fr Denis O’Rourke, a Kiltegan father. Tipp GAA and Munster rugby jerseys and a tennis racket were among the symbols brought forward.
Tom was talented musically and, while having studied music in his school days, possessed the real talent of being able to play the piano by ear. He was therefore a very popular figure at gatherings of family and friends, where he could instantly pick up the basics of a tune he’d perhaps only barely have known of. In keeping with his musical ear, Tom was a lover of language, a stickler for correct grammar usage, an entertaining story-teller, and a regular attender at performances by the Thurles Musical Society.
One of his foibles was his love in telling corny jokes.
A member of his parish choir, loyalty to which he usually put above going to Thurles for big Tipp games, it was appropriate that his fellow choir members should gather in numbers to sing him on his way, and that three cousins, including Michael Molumby of Thurles Musical Society renown, should have joined the choir to celebrate Tom’s life. Tom was a gentle soul and a gentleman.