A miner stood at the Golden Gate, his head bowed low,
He meekly asked the man of fate the way that he should go.
‘What have you done,’ St Peter asked, ‘to gain admission here?’
‘I merely mined for coal.’ he said, ‘for many a year.’
St Peter opened wide the gate and softly tolled the bell,
‘Come and choose your harp,’ he said, ‘you`ve had your share of hell.’
Rest in peace Seamie XX
(Chubby, Maggie, Sarah and Katie)
WHEN it came to life’s battles, there was no greater warrior than coalminer, Seamus Walsh of Maryville, Castlecomer.
He was commander in chief in a passionate little army of battlers that craved a better deal for retired miners who suffered from cruel illnesses and many had little to show for a courageous fight to keep home fires burning.
He was a deft crusader at any round table talks to square a deal for colleagues he admired, respected and loved.
His words came from the heart. He knew the score, the scars of silicosis, the pains of years of inhaling coal dust, the price of eating a packed lunch in the company of hungry mine rats.
Sadly, Seamus’s most recent battle was to be the toughest of all.
He was fighting for his life. As was his hallmark, he went to war with a concoction of courage, a will to survive, craving a signal that he would get more time with his beloved family.
PRAYERS OF FELLOW MINERS RINGING IN HIS EARS
It wasn’t to be.
He had fought the good fight.
He passed away peacefully in the company of those he cherished most and with the prayers of fellow miners ringing in his ears.
The latter were men who had often scrapped by his side as the one time kings of the underground sought a fair return in senior years for daring the Angel of Death in a below earth dungeon that showed no respect for life or limb.
Seamus spent a lifetime in the mines of his beloved North Kilkenny coalfield.
Like his dad before him, he probably knew every cruel inch of Deerpark Colliery, a daunting and oft dangerous workplace for men, boys too, eking out a living in a giant cavern of mud, blood, sweat and tears.
For generations in the native place he loved so well, Seamus was a proud son of the underground that was a meal ticket for his extended family, a cradle of camaraderie, a local tale of tradition, tragedy and hard graft.
HAZARDOUS WAY OF EARNING A CRUST
For generations, Castlecomer was a mining town.
Toiling in pits was a hazardous way of earning a crust.
Yet, the closure of the mines spelled disaster for a proud and close-knit community.
But with amazing resilience, ‘Comer refused to die. With the support of local denizens, many of whom had also helped to make ‘Comer Wellington Race, a worldwide phenomenon, the town did a Phoenix from the Ashes.
Seamus was a man for all seasons. He gave unselfishly of himself to many worthy causes and projects.
TALENTED SINGER AND GUITARIST
A respected author, he penned two books, Coal in the Blood and In the Shadow of the Mines.
He was involved with the Male Voice Choir and championed the local discovery park.
He was a devoted member of Railyard Gaelic Football Club and Castlecomer Golf Club.
Seamus loved music and song and he was a talented singer and guitarist.
He loved The Hole in the Wall hostelry off High Street in Kilkenny and admired the wonderful restoration work done on a cherished piece of Kilkenny history by his good friend, St Luke’s General Hospital Consultant Cardiologist, Dr Michael Conway.
As an ambassador for his town he was simply one of the best. He would make his time and knowledge available to visiting journalists on the coalmining trail.
What might have been a chore to some was a privilege and passion to Seamus.
On one occasion he sat with me as I interviewed an old lady whose family was steeped in mining.
EXCOMMUNICATED FROM CATHOLIC CHURCH
She was in her very senior years and cried as she recalled that she was ill on the Sunday that miners were asked to leave a church in ‘Comer.
The pit men were excommunicated from the Catholic Church because they had sought help from Russia in their battle for trade union rights.
Had I been in church, I would have been so proud to walk out with the miners, summed up the lady’s feelings.
The interview was spectacular but heart-wrenching and it would not have been possible without the wonderful help of Seamus W.
Seamus was a wonderful conversationalist. Yes, he spoke about mining but he never forced his journey in life to the top of an agenda of a gathering of friends.
Colloquially Seamie, he will forever and a day hold a special place in the hearts of North Kilkenny people with whom he was so popular, and, more importantly, highly respected.
He is survived by his wife, Chrissie; son, Joe; daughters, Miriam, Paula, Christine, Noelle and Majella; grandchildren, Lauren, Jamie, Leanne, Emma, Rhys, Corey and Tadgh; brother, PJ; sisters Mary, Carmel and Josephine; daughters-in-law; sons-in-law; sister-in-law; brothers in law, nieces and nephews.
Thank you for your friendship.
‘Till we meet again
Chubby Brennan and Jimmy Rhatigan