Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Happy Birthday Dad

From the Editor.

Today, Dad would have been ninety four.

As most of you know, Dad died on Friday July 1st. He had a wonderful and lucky life and made the most of the many talents he was given (and probably a few he wasn't). He died peacefully at home, surrounded by Louise and his family and for that, we are forever grateful. He often spoke to me about writing a special blog to be published after his death but we have searched his computer and have yet to find it - perhaps it will turn up one day. At his funeral and afterwards, a few of us spoke about him so we thought it might be fitting to put our words onto the blog. He would like that. I should say that although Dad was a very good and keen Irish speaker, we, his children are not (hence there may be some spelling mistakes which I think he would have forgiven - at least we tried)

Five of us spoke but I do not have David's speech as he is off on holidays in west Kerry, a place Dad loved from his childhood days. Barbara did not speak but her thoughts are forming and, as we said, it's OK to take your time at moments like this.

You might find there are more grammatical and spelling errors than normal as it is not Dad who is writing this but I think, under the circumstances he would forgive that too.

From Richard:

A Uachtarán, A Dhuine Uasail, Taimid an sasta go bhfuil sibh anseo inniu chun onóir ár n-athair.
On behalf of myself Richard, David, Hugh, Tina, Barbara and Lisa, we would like to thank you for coming to honour Risteárd today.

Our Dad lived an amazing life. He was to us what I would imagine any father would be to their children – our hero, our pillar of strength, our teacher and our no-recourse financial lender!

Born into a prominent family – his Dad Richard Mulcahy played a vital role in setting up the Army and maintaining stability at the embryonic stage of our fledgling nation. His Mum, equally involved in the formation of our State took a backseat role and looked after Dad and his 5 siblings - two of whom I am delighted so say are still with us; Elisabet and Seán. 

Dad had an uneventful life growing up - he always described it as devoid of any material trappings but having a great  sense of belonging. It was at this formative stage that he picked up the many skills that were to Maketh the Man.

In 1939 Dad decided that for no particular reason, other than knowing Latin and Greek, he would try medicine in College. It was a decision that many thousands of people would benefit from throughout his career. In 1954, after a whirlwind romance of 3 months, he married our Mum, Aileen Hanton. In the following 8 years, the six of us were born – poor Mum! Dad had been a late starter but he sure made up for it.

In our earlier years, we saw little of Dad – mainly at breakfast when he would regale us with stories of the latest hospital drama - how someone had swallowed a wasp and died, a patient’s head having to be sowed back on after a terrible accident. Dad was our hero then and, as we grew older, we saw him less and less – in fact, we probably saw him in the media more than anywhere else. 

Just like any other normal children, we rebelled against our parents. Dad was on the Late Late Show one night and Gay was commending him on getting the nation off of cigarettes – there was a “hear hear” from our sitting room as Mum and the six of us sat puffing cigarette smoke at the TV!

It was a sad time for Mum and all of us in 1974 when Dad left home. Many people tried to intervene but when Dad made up his mind to do something, there was no stopping him. 

In 1977, Dad was to meet and fall in love with Louise. As an extended member of the family once said “wasn’t he the cute fellow to get a nurse 24 years younger than himself to fall in love with him!”. They had the perfect yin yang relationship. For us, having a stepmother was difficult at first but you could not help but love Louise. So much so, that even Mum eventually, with great grace, accepted Louise into her life and they became good friends. They both loved the same rogue to the end!

Apart from saving the world, Dad had time to pursue other activities with the same gusto. He was captain of Milltown Golf Club at the age of 32, much to the chagrin of the Reverend Mother in St. Vincent’s  who said she did not want professional golfers on her staff.  He became an avid squash player in his 40s and 50s and took up running at the age of 60. While training for his first marathon, Dad ran from Leeson Park to Sutton. Exhausted, he decided to get the bus back in to town. The 31A stopped at St. Fintan’s Cemetery where Dad clambered on the bus wheezing and sweating profusely – even back then, he looked emaciated. The bus driver slowly eyed Dad up and down and then asked him where he was going. Dad said he wanted a ticket into town. The driver considered the request for a moment, took a long look at the cemetery, looked back at Dad and said “do you really think it’s worth your while going home?” Dad went on to complete 4 marathons over the following 7 years. 

After his hospital retirement at 65, Dad took up golf again. It was always a source of irritation that up to age 89, he still took money off myself and my two brothers on the golf course.

As exercise, cycling began to feature heavily in Dad’s life in his early 70s. Not content to just ride his bike, he had to turn cycling into a crusade. Writing to politicians and county councils about bicycle lanes, the state of potholes on our roads, writing books about exercise where cycling featured. Eventually, at 91, he decided to stop cycling – he felt it was getting too chaotic on the roads for a middle aged man like himself! 

He still had walking which was like a drug for him and he would invariably walk every day with Louise or scoot off into town on his own to see if his books were still on sale in the few remaining bookshops. 

In his later years, we, his children had much more time with him and he embraced this with each of us in different ways. Although originally more focused on us boys, he grew to depend on the girls in later life, setting up his blogs, doing all his typing and secretarial work, dealing with his ongoing Kindle issues or just shooting the breeze with them or his grandchildren.

2016 was a special year for Dad. For the last few years, he had been getting more and more anxious about how mankind was destroying our precious planet through over-population, consumerism and climate change. Instead of just talking about it, he wrote a 10,000 word pamphlet called “The Survival of Humanity”. This was launched by his friend, Marie Louise O’Donnell in March and I remember clearly what she said about Dad “Risteárd may very well be the first man to live for ever.

In April he was invited to Ashbourne to celebrate the only real victory in 1916 by the rebels which was masterminded by his father. He was so proud to be there and to know that his father was getting the recognition due to him.

In May we met with the Chief of Staff of the Army to try and finally set the record straight about Dad’s father. General Richard Mulcahy was appointed the first Chief of Staff of the newly formed Irish army in 1919. We believe that the Army is the most disciplined, loyal and integrous body serving the State and that Richard Mulcahy had his part to play in that. Also in May, through the generous partnership of Wexford County Council Dad and family members attended a meeting where it was agreed that an 18 acre park would be built for the people of Wexford and named in honour of Dad’s mum, Min Ryan, who also played a prominent role in The Rising and the foundation of the State.

One would have to ask oneself – with all these activities – how did Dad actually have time to die?

Dad’s final days really only started last Wednesday week when he had a mini stroke. Last Monday I was sitting in his garden enjoying one of his favourite pastimes – having a Gin and Tonic, and despite a slight slur in his speech he was still able to bang on about the stock market and the world population problem!

He went to bed on Tuesday with the expectation that he was going to die, but at 6pm when Louise whispered in his ears if he would like a Gin and Tonic his eyes binged open and the drink was polished off with relish. Later that evening we had the pleasure of Abbot Mark Hederman no less to give Dad a blessing (this I might add was a request directly from Dad which was a first in our eyes since he had been agnostic most of his life). The blessing and especially the sprinkling of the holy water over Dad’s head went off without a bolt of lightning coming through the roof, much to our relief!  

Dad spoke a couple of words to us afterwards but then slipped into a deep sleep never to talk again. On Friday morning at 9.30am surrounded by a number of us touching his lovely face and hands, having created so much turmoil and hullabaloo in his life – he quietly exhaled one last time and died.
What a legacy Dad has left – words cannot capture his achievements, the lives he saved, the people he touched, his deep concern for this precious world we live in, his childlike curiosity for everything new, his deep rooted need to honour his parents, his outspoken views of modern day politicians compared to the founding fathers of this amazing Country.

Above all Dad, through leading by example, instilled in the six of us a sense of social responsibility, a good work ethic, a love for the environment, a deep rooted loyalty to family and friends, the gift of generosity and a pragmatic approach to life’s ups and downs. For that and much, much more we thank you Dad. I would like to end off with a quote from one of Dad’s books 

“Despite the ups and downs of our lives on earth, surely this life is better than facing the meaningless immortality of the Gods”
“D’fheadfadh a chuimhne a bheith ina beannacht” – “May his memory be a blessing” 

From Tina:

Uachtarán, dear friends and family.

I am Tina, Dad’s eldest daughter and today I would like to say a few words on behalf of Louise.

Louise would like to extend her most profound thanks to each and every one of you here today, those of you who have come from far and near.   She also thanks those friends that could not make it today.   The love and friendship that you have given to Louise and Dad have made a major contribution towards making their life such a happy one.

Over the last months my Dad and Louise were able to live a normal life largely because of their neighbours and friends precious help. 

It is not possible to thank everyone by name but Louise would like to mention a few people:

·      Diarmuid O’Shea and Tony McDowell, Dad’s personal physicians and close friends;
·      The staff of St Vincent’s University and Private Hospitals and the Hospice in Blackrock for their care;
·      Jess Ryan, Maria Fe and Lusia for their love and care;
·      Fr. Tony Coote and Dom. Mark Patrick Hederman for their spiritual guidance;
Today my siblings and I are technically orphans.  However Louise has made it very clear to us that this will never be the case as long as she is around.  For this I am eternally grateful.

Louise has also asked me to present Dad’s stethoscope to David.  He must be guardian of the stethoscope until one of the eleven grandchildren decides to become a doctor.

I would like to finish with a personal reflection.  I have been working in the Council of Europe in Strasbourg for 35 years.  Europe and the world are faced with many challenges and difficult times in terms of solidarity towards our fellow human beings.  

Perhaps Ireland is not a perfect country but when I return here I continue to be heartened by the strong sense of community and solidarity.  I see this within my own family and I see it in wider society.  

This makes me very proud to be a Mulcahy and very proud to be Irish. 

Thank you

From Hugh:
Richard, David and Tina have talked about Dad’s professional and personal lives and also mentioned some of his essential characteristics. He was both adaptable and solution based, but this brought him into conflict with authority with whom he had a love hate relationship. Richard, David and I brought him over to Scotland in September 2014 to visit his uncle Sam’s grave in Nunraw in Scotland. Sam, with a number of other Monks from Mount St. Joseph Abbey, Roscrea, had founded the Abbey in 1946 and Dad had never visited the site before. Arriving in Dublin Airport, we queued for the security check and, as you can imagine, Dad hated queuing. Arriving at Security, a young woman asked him to empty his pockets of coins, pens, keys and the other paraphernalia that a 92 year old carries.

Do you have a watch? Yes. Well, please take it off and place it in the tray.
Is that an identity Bracelet? Yes. Please take it off and….
What about your bow tie, does that have any metal in it? Probably. Well, please….
Your monocle will also need to go in the tray………and your belt.
Dad was so frustrated at this stage that he replied “look, young lady, wouldn’t it be easier for everyone if I just hopped up on the conveyer belt and went through the machine myself? To her credit, she just laughed and let him pass on.

He also had a love hate relationship with golf. He took up the sport in the late 1930’s with his brother, Padraig and sister, Elisabet and used to catch the 14 tram to Milltown and walk the short distance to Milltown Golf Club where the Mulcahys seemed to be ever present and his handicap rapidly fell to seven. He became Captain in 1954, an astonishing 62 years ago and, indeed, was Captain before most of the recent Captains were born. His brother Padraig was  Captain in 1964 and his sister Elizabeth in 1973. He was also a member in both Rosslare for a period, and in Portmarnock for most of his life.

Dad was a serial golf giver upper. He first gave up golf at the age of 37 during a particularly bad Winter when snow prevented all play for a period of two months. At this time, he took up squash, which he played until his late 50’s when he took up marathon running. He returned to golf at 65 on his retirement and played a regular fourball with friends every Tuesday in Portmarnock. He gave up golf again at 80 when his partners began to die off, but took it up again at 82 when he found a new and younger set to play with. He finally gave up competitive 18-hole golf at 89 when his younger partners began to die off and played his last competitive game at the age of 92 – a three hole competition with his grandchildren.

Apart from this, he had an enforced layoff for three months in early 1994 when he had undergone a hip replacement. Never one to miss an opportunity to profit from misfortune – even his own, he wrote to the Chairman of the Handicap Committee in Milltown:

Dear xxx
Re: Golf Handicap
Playing off a handicap of 14.2, I have recently undergone hip replacement surgery. This has necessitated a lengthy recuperation period and has had a negative effect on my golfing ability, predominantly affecting my driving and long iron play. I should also note that, while surgery was generally successful, the surgeon misaligned my hip joint by about 5 degrees, so that I now consistently miss my putts to the left side.

I would be grateful if you would you would review and adjust my handicap accordingly.

Yours sincerely

Risteárd Mulcahy

The Handicap Secretary wrote back:

Dear Risteárd,

Re: Golf Handicap

Many thanks for your letter. I’m delighted to hear that you have made a generally good recovery after your recent surgery. Following review, I am pleased to inform you that the Handicap Committee has adjusted your handicap to 18 with immediate effect.

Finally, Risteárd, I would be grateful if you would forward the name and contact details of your orthopedic surgeon to me. Although my hip joints are normal, I have suffered from the yips for many years, unfailingly missing my putts to the right.

With kind regards

However behind every great golfer there is a caddy, just as behind every great woman there is a man and behind every man a woman.

Da had many women in his life. Maura Mulcahy and Chris Doherty, his private secretary and nurse. Nancy Grogan, his secretary in St Vincent’s and a huge group of nurses in the Coronary Care Unit in St Vincent’s. My mother Aileen, who had six children in the space of eight years and who, if I say so myself, did a very respectable job of bringing the lot of us up. Finally, Louise, whom he married in 1997. Louise was everything to him in his later years, finally nursing him through his recent final illness.

So what would he have wanted to say to you here today? Plenty probably. When I look around here, I see many of his friends and many older people. I have the privilege to work in St Vincent’s Hospital and frequently care for patients in their 80s and 90s. I am often struck by the bravery and courage of our elderly patient population who bear the indignities of old age and the embarrassments that hospital life throws at them every day. I am also occasionally appalled by the attitude of some of their children who assume that failing eyesight or hearing equates to a failing intellect and who consequently treat their parents as if they were nothing more than stupid or naughty children. Dad had failing eyesight and hearing, but he never lost his intellect nor allowed us to treat him as anything less than the head of his house, and for that I am thankful. If he were to say one thing to his elderly friends, he might say “Never lose your dignity, nor sense of destiny, for they are yours, and yours alone, until the day you die.”

Thank you.

From Lisa:

As many of you are aware, Dad did a weekly Blog called The Font of Knowledge which I had the privilege to edit. Each week we would post up a review he had done of a book he had read. This had become a custom of his, some years back when he had retired and was keen to keep an active mind. The subject matter of the books he read varied greatly as he had so many interests and so much curiosity that needed to be satisfied.  We posted the first blog on March 10th 2013 and the most recent just over four weeks ago on May 30th. In total, he posted 153 blogs – mostly book reviews but more recently, personal memories of his youthful activities and experiences. Dad loved the Irish language but he loved English too and was, to my mind pretty masterful with it. When I call myself an editor – I really didn’t do very much because there was nothing for me to do. My main job became finding or taking photos that would compliment or comment on his words.  I learned so much, not only about the world and history and nature but also about Dad because he so brilliantly weaved himself into his reviews. He had a great command of the language and I spent many hours looking up the meanings of the words he might use that I was not familiar with. He was very particular about punctuation. I made a dreadful error early on in my capacity as editor – I used the spell check. As well as checking spellings, it also checks punctuation and like the fool I was, I did its bidding and made various amendments. I received a call very early the following morning after Dad had reviewed the blog online. Suffice to say, I never used the spell-check again and I learned that punctuation can be very personal.

As others have said today, Dad was very funny and in my mind, forever young. He had a brilliant way with words.

To end, I would like to read some email correspondence between us a few years ago when he was a rather childish 87 years of age.

From Dad -

Dear offspring,

Greetings for the August bank holiday. Just to let u no that I have moved into the 21st Century by becoming the proud owner of a 2nd hand mobile phone thanks to the generosity of my spouse who has moved prematurely into the 22nd Century. It’s purpose is for emergency calls only!  It is not intended for idle gossip nor 4 the transmission of bawdy or raunchy jokes (Martha please note!) nor do I need any racing or stock exchange tips. I simply want  to be left alone 2 write books and 2 practise my golf swing. For meaningful communication & sapient and efficient verbal intercourse without excessive circumlocution (I had to look that one up – it means  the use of many words where fewer would do,) please avoid prolixity (unnecessary or tedious length) by employing text language only.

With much love, Dad.

A short while later, obviously after some considered contemplation on his part he sent a follow up email –

Dear offspring,

Just to confirm that my mobile can only be used for emergency purposes but texts are now admissible as long as they are not too long-winded.

Le beannacht agus mór gradh, R.

My response to him  - 

Excellent - perhaps soon you might feel brave enough to tackle driving a motorised vehicle powered by what we in these modern times call the 'internal combustion engine?' Shouldn't a man of your age be asleep tucked up with your nightcap ( and I don't mean a drink...)

Your most devoted

His response -

Thanks my lovely one,

I only got the latter end of your email but I enjoyed your quiet banter. I should remind you that drink was not my favourite bed-fellow. You  owe your petty existence to the fact that there were much nicer things to be enjoyed in the bed! I look back on a life fulfilled by the joys of the couch and its many co-occupants, and of an equally exciting future.

Le gradh agus beannacht, Daidí.

I will miss his words.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam