Greater love hath no man for his native place.
Fondly Kierny Brennan, baptized Kieran, passed away at St Vincent’s University Hospital on Tuesday.
He was accompanied home to the Castlecomer he adored on Wednesday and was interred in the shadow of his family home earlier today, Thursday.
Kierny’s relationship with his place of birth was akin to his great love for his wife and six children, a close-knit unit of sons and daughters.
Meticulously and methodically, as he sadly lost his battle with a cruel illness, and even before that, he had choreographed his transition from Mother Earth to the Heavenly Home he believed in.
He was as happy as what he might, with a wry smile, have called the proverbial as he lay in peace at his rural home, sweet home, 33 Kilkenny Street, Castlecomer, a residence he truly loved and was so protective of.
Kierny had a deep love and belief in all things ‘Comer, just as he loved all of his family dearly and treasured the name Brennan with the kind of passion with which a man or woman might chase a rainbow for its crock of gold.
Surrounded by his family, he would have agreed that he could not have been in a better place.
The Brennan Clan Chieftain was at the heart of a moving prayer ceremony.
A HOME OF LOVE, PRAYERS AND HAPPINESS
It marked his final words with the Man Above in what he always knew to be a home of prayers, love and happiness.
What he had treasured during so many of his 76 years, he planned so that he would continue to enjoy and continue to be with his own and extended community as he rested in peace beneath the hallowed sod in the graveyard beside the Church of the Immaculate Conception.
That was to ensure that he would always be close to the home where the parents he idolised lived and he was born.
From the kitchen where his body reposed on Wednesday, it would have been possible to carry his coffin through the back door and out through the garden.
The coffin would then be placed in the plot where he would forever and a day be so close to the tigín that is steeped in Brennan lore and love.
From the home that is the Brennan family castle, his remains were removed to the neighbouring church where he was baptized and made his First Communion and Confirmation.
Following Requiem Mass, family and friends walked their final earthly journey with the larger than life Kierny, the curly-haired and trusted friend they could always rely on.
A doting dad, beloved husband, dedicated uncle, brother, cousin, friend and granddad ensured that he would always be a close neighbour for his son Eoin who now lives in Kilkenny Street and for future generations of the clan.
A LITTLE CORNER OF HEAVEN ON EARTH
Kierny only would have made such beautiful arrangements so that the generation game had a smooth transition in what was for over seven and a half decades his family’s little corner of Heaven on Earth.
For much of his life he was domiciled in Dundrum, Dublin where he was sergeant in the Garda Siochána. His children were born, educated and lived on the periphery of the capital.
He made many great friendships with what he called his home from home and the Brennan front door was always ajar for sons or daughters of ‘Comer and indeed the greater Kilkenny on tour or heading for a big match in Croker.
Every chance he got, Kierny, with his nearest and dearest on board, headed for ‘Comer, reunions he craved and loved, a few hours well spent with his brothers and sisters, extended family, cousins, in-laws and as he might have said himself, a few outlaws too.
There has always been unbelievable camaraderie in the Brennan Clan.
Kierny’s dad John and Chubby Brennan’s father Martin were brothers while Mickey Brennan the baker completed a trinity of brotherly love.
Kierny was a highly intelligent but unassuming gentleman, with an intoxicating sense of humour.
A retired Garda Sergeant, he preferred to advise, encourage and coax rather than to wield any big stick.
WEARING A GARDA UNIFORM WAS A PRIVILEGE
He had huge respect for his fellow men and women, children too.
He believed that wearing a Garda uniform was a privilege, an opportunity to help rehabilitate those who may have strayed.
As a young lad, he certainly paid attention in class at ‘Comer national school.
He garnered as much knowledge as he could and believed that every day of his life there was something new to be learned.
The Brennan family home was inevitably a happy place, Christine, Kieran and their little flock enjoyed each other’s company.
There would be a field of great runners for the title of the Great High Chief of the former coal-mining town of ‘Comer that was given a bloody nose when the mines closed.
With the underground route to essentials like food and clothing cruelly cut off, the town was literally down in the dumps.
Great men like the king of the underground, the late Seamus Walsh battled bravely to champion a renaissance.
The North Kilkenny town had many inspirational leaders, warriors from local families, men and women who in different ways led to a Phoenix from the ashes of anthracite.
Kierny never dug coal from the earth but his father John had toiled underground to boost the family budget all his life.
A COCKTAIL OF LOCAL FAMILY COURAGE
Kierny and others of a similar mindset knew the score and their passion for a town they loved so well fitted cozily into a cocktail of local family courage that led to one of the great Lazarus-like recoveries of a town that refused to die.
Kierny was one of many brave combatants in a fearless army that with a combination of positive thinking and blood, sweat and tears, catapulted ‘Comer out of the doldrums and into a brave new world.
The fight would have made any Conor McGregor confrontation look like an afternoon tea party.
As a proud son of ‘Comer, Kierny was so thrilled that the pulse of his birthplace was beating again.
But, sadly, he was to lose the toughest fight of all, his courageous battle with illness.
He was a model soldier, a patient with oodles of patience, a husband, dad, granddad and brother who refused to feel sorry for himself as all the loves of his life, the greater Brennan family, continued to be most important to him.
Up to recent times, I was lucky to get a few words with him as he lay in his sick bed.
Our chats were usually short and sweet and mostly ended with a promise to come together for a few pints of Guinness.
HOPED GOOD HEALTH WOULD BE HIS LOT
Kierny hoped and prayed the God he trusted and worked closely with would deem that good health would again be his lot.
With his relative and confidante, Chubby Brennan providing health updates there were wonderful times when it looked as if Kierny was winning the war.
He refused to throw in the towel but the knockout blow finally came as courage, positivity and family love and care just weren’t enough to save a gentleman, scholar, raconteur and truly Christian family and community man from the Grim Reaper.
Unsurprisingly, Kierny’s wishes were that he was to be brought home to be with his people.
As his cortege eased into ‘Comer one could sense the feeling of numbness and loss as people were unable to gather to honour their hero because of Covid restrictions .
It was a sad but remarkable occasion for a town that deeply respects and treasures its own.
It was happy too as practically every family in ‘Comer paid tributes in their own special ways.
The latter cherished Kierny as a people person, a favourite who, on such occasions might jokingly have referred to himself as a prodigal son.
The requiem was somewhat surreal as the man who helped to lighten the load of so many at funerals over the years was now at the centre of a solemn ceremony.
BRILLIANT ORATOR AND GENIUS WITH WORDS
He was a brilliant orator, a genius with words, a great wit, with a proverb to suit every occasion.
Níl aon tinteán mar do thinteán féin would surely have been his choice as family, friends and neighbours prepared to accompany him to his final resting place, respecting health regulations, just as he would have wished.
Most mourners will have had a story of care and kindness to tell about Kierny and his family.
Christine and Kierny were philanthropists and loving neighbours and friends right back to the time when the patter of tiny feet was a familiar sound in their cosy home in Dundrum, Dublin.
We all had a personal story.
It was 40 years ago when my daughter, Andrea was a patient in Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin for a hip operation.
At her bedside was my wife Ann who had booked into a local B&B to be with Andrea, a mere 18-months old.
Christine and Kierny were visiting the hospital, found out that we were from Kilkenny and the rest is a tale of unbelievable hospitality and goodwill as the Brennan house became Ann’s home for the duration of the hospital stay.
We became close friends and like god only knows how many others enjoyed some great times at venues like the Comerford family’s then Avalon Inn.
BOOK ON KIERNY WOULD BE BEST-SELLER
A book on Kierny’s life in particular would probably be a best-seller.
He had a great vocab, a terrific grasp of the English language with a spattering of Latin and Irish often thrown in for good measure.
He was to add the Welsh tongue in more recent years as he toured the world with the Dublin Welsh Choir.
As a Garda he was highly thought of by his colleagues and earned the respect of others too as he displayed fair play for those who may in his own words have ‘been bould’.
Kierny was the real deal.
He was a loyal buddy, great company, could possibly have earned his crust as a comedian and loved the company of others.
He was troubadour, a seanachaí and a chorister.
His great assets were that he was warm, friendly, genuine and respectful.
The word ego never made it into his dictionary of life. He was as good a listener as he was a storyteller.
Most will have heard his tale about a horse race and the Duke of York.
Another story worth recalling would be his involvement in a racehorse syndicate in his home town, a funny scéal that ended with the would-be Grand National winner ending up pulling a milk float.
TIED TO THE LOCAL CREAMERY GATES
Kierny told a fellow syndicate member after the disappointment: “Neddie is now tied to the local creamery gates and is starting work in the morning.”
No doubt those stories will be doing the rounds as friends recall the life and times of a man mighty.
There were great yarns too about his love affair with the game of hurling and about his soccer years with his local club.
A story he loved to recall and probably related it at least 999 times was of the occasion when, dressed as The Pope he led The Avalon to victory in the ‘Comer Wellie Race Fancy Dress parade.
He was the bees’ knees, complete with papal head gear that just may have been a Zucchetto, he impressed two local pensioners so much as he alighted from his ‘Pope Mobile’ that they knelt on the footpath and asked for his blessing.
In spirit of the occasion, Kierny duly obliged.
But perhaps what made the tale a possible headliner was that Bishop Laurence Forristal, Ossory’s newly elected bishop was wellie race personality and it turned out that his first official public function was to present his boss with a fancy dress first prize.
It would take an encyclopedia, coincidentally among the Offertory Gifts that also included Kilkenny and Erin’s Own hurling jerseys and a Garda cap to tell the full story of Kilkenny’s man mighty who was so much admired.
It would be a gargantuan task but it should be possible to find the right scribe amongst the literati of Kierny’s ‘Comer.
At the conclusion of Requiem Mass, celebrated by Fr Ian Doyle and Monsignor Michael Ryan, a letter of sympathy was read from the Dublin Walsh Choir.
A poem penned by Alan, partner of Kieran’s daughter, Chrissie of Sydney, Australia was recited by Kierny’s nephew, Séamus Brennan who paid a beautiful tribute to his uncle.
He said he was a gentle person, a man of dignity and faith.
He thanked the ‘Comer clergy and paid tribute to the staff and nurses at The Royal Hospital, Donnybrook.
He thanked the local community and had a special word for those who could not be present because of Covid.19 restrictions, Kierny’s sister Rita in the United States and daughter Chrissie in Aussie as well as Kierny’s relatives in Birmingham and London.
He spoke of the Three Fs in Kierny’s life, Family, Faith and Fun and reminded that before joining the Gardai, Kierny had considered being a postman or a priest.
Kierny is survived by the loves of his life, wife Christine; children Eoin, Christina, Ciaran, Enda, Ciara and Siobhán, grandchildren, sisters Ann, Kathleen, Rita and brother Michael, daughters-in-law, sisters-in-law, brother-in-law, nieces and nephews.
Family members who participated in the ceremony spoke in as Gaeilge and in English.
That would have pleased Kierny.
Today, as he was laid to rest he was reunited with his mam and dad and his brothers, Tommy, Séamus Joker, Seán Miner and sister Mary.