Tommy Prendergast (1916-2005)
Oration at his graveside in Dangan Cemetery, Feb 1 2005
Members of the Prendergast family, friends and neighbours of Tommy, ladies and gentleman. We are gathered here today to say our farewells to Tommy Prendergast, who made his mark on life over 89 years.
Born not so far from here in the ancient townsland of Killeenasteena, in the historic year of 1916, he remained a countryman all his life, even if he lived in the City of the Kings for most of it The other place, with which he was long associated, was another townsland, Shanballyduff, one of the most historic old farmyards in County Tipperary. It is only fitting then that we should lay him to rest in this country graveyard.
As we gather this morning to pay our last respects, we think of the influences that may have formed him. They include his parents and ten siblings, his teachers, particularly Tom Keegan, in Templenoe National School. They must also include Tom Semple of Thurles Blues fame, who was born close by, and the famous Ryans of the Racecourse, who were colossal figures in the world of sport. Finally there was the towering figure of E. D. Ryan of Tubberadora fame, with whom Tommy worked in the drapery business for all of thirty-five years.
Tom Keegan recognised the brightness in Tommy and wanted him to go to secondary school, but times were poor in 1932 and work was more important However, Tommy got the chance of further education later, and took it. After starting his apprenticeship with E. D. Ryan in 1934, he enrolled in the first evening class in the new Technical School in Hogan Square, studying shorthand, typing, Irish, English and History. When he completed that course he went on to study carpentry, spending almost a decade in all advancing his education.
Tommy became an important influence in Cashel King Cormac's soon after the end of the Second World War. The club was in need of a secretary at the time and Tommy seemed the obvious choice. As the chairman of the time, Fr. English, put it: 'If we have no secretary, we can have no club.' Never a hurler of note, Tommy's love of gaelic games was fostered by reading the reports of games in the 'Nationalist', and that interest burgeoned after commencing work for E.D. Ryan.
There was another good reason why Tommy was the man for the job. The club was deep in debt and Tommy had the kind of business acumen that might get in out of trouble. In fact he inherited a debt of nearly £3,000. He set about reducing it through regular '25' drives and holding occasional dances, especially on St Patrick's Day and Easter Sunday in the old City Hall. His efforts succeeded and the debt was cleared.
Tommy was the man for the hard road. When one compares the financial resources of clubs in the early fifties with a half-century later, there is a world of difference. These were difficult days and to Tommy we must pay thanks for keeping the ship afloat in these tough times. One hears stories of him putting his hand in his pocket to pay for sliotars, when the club couldn't afford them. He brought the club through this difficult time and set it on the road to its later prosperity. On this occasion, on behalf of Cashel King Cor mac's. I want to thank him.
He was to remain as secretary or treasurer, and sometimes both, over a period of twenty years. Even though these years are regarded as a low point in the history of the club, when it went for seventeen years without winning a divisional senior title, there were high points. The greatest was in 1954 when the first county adult title was won, the 1953 county junior hurling championship. The other was the purchase and development of Leahy Park. With both of these Tommy was intimately connected. Not only was he secretary in 1953, he was also a selector on the team. The club were delighted to include him in the fiftieth anniversary celebrations for the team at Bru Boru last September.
When he ceased to be an officer of the club, Tommy retained a huge interest in the fortunes of Cashel King Cormac's, attending matches and supporting the club in any way he could.
His other great interest was local history and he was proud of the historic farm he inherited from relations in Shanballyduff. He took me around it on one occasion and recorded on tape the historic associations of the place. He liked tracing the history of people and places, and he had a large amount of lore about Cashel over a long period of time. While he never lived in Shanballyduff, I always felt it was a kind of spiritual home, with the farming that he loved and the historic ruins that he cherished.
Today we say goodbye to a man, who played a major role in the history of the King Cormacs Club. We were proud to walk beside the funeral cortege through the streets of Cashel last night and to see the club colours fluttering in the breeze as his coffin was borne to the church. Today we are gathered to pay our last respects to him in this ancient graveyard. To his wife, Mairead, his four sons and three daughters, we express our sincerest sympathy.
Ar dheis De go raibh an ainm dilis.