Tadgh’s Cap

“Don’t wait oh, go tell her now
Don’t wait around
I said don’t wait oh, go tell her now
Don’t wait around
Or you may never know
You may never know how she’s feeling”

(Tom Odell )

First thing Tuesday morning my Soulmate told me that my friend Tadgh had passed away during the night. I’ve written about our friendship before, I called the piece ‘The Tadgh’s That Bind’, and I’ve included it below in the P.S.

It wasn’t unexpected news, but after reaching out to Tadgh’s son Barry, also a great friend, to say that we’d be down to Cork for the funeral, I carried on with my week and other than the occasional fond recollection was surprised that I hadn’t got very emotional.

I went for a run with Ray that afternoon and we chatted about Tadgh, and our running awesomeness, the US debt ceiling, Tik Tok, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. All normal.

On Wednesday I attended my writing class in our local Crocus Cancer Care Centre and this week’s class exercise was to spend 10 minutes writing about “The Greatest Gift I Ever Received”. My effort went as follows :


I have received the same gift at different times from different people. There are many names for it, and it takes many forms. Some don’t recognise it and don’t realise they have given it.

My Mother instilled in me from a very early age that I was as good and capable as anyone else, but also that I was no better than anyone else. She also got Santa to get me the live double album “Ziggy Stardust: The Motion Picture” one Christmas.

My Granda , Frank Sally, took me on adventures to old farms and old friends before I’d started school. Granny/Nanny looked after me after school and told me old stories.

Dad played football with my brothers, our friends, and I everyday when he came home from work, until we were exhausted.

Brother McCabe encouraged me and my 9 year old classmates to express ourselves through plays and projects, and never gave us homework. We thought he was brilliant…our parents didn’t.

Mr Lee read my English essays out in class.

With Fintan, Micky, Mark, Cyril, John, Milo, Shane, Ronan, and the other Fintan we fought against the gentle oppression of our priest teachers and are still friends.

My Soulmate gave me my heart.

Our kids give me life and inspiration, I nurturing them, and they me.

My brothers gave me time to heal.

Friends, college mates, and you ,, gave me a hand when I needed it most.

They all ,in their way, gave me love, the greatest gift of all.


My Soulmate’s sister, and my great friend Ger arrived with us from Wales on Wednesday night in order to travel with us to Tadgh’s funeral on Thursday morning. The funeral was in Canovee, near Macroom, at 11, so we had to be on the road for 5.00am in order to beat the M50 traffic chaos. I like driving, as it gives me control of the radio/playlists/podcasts, and as the girls dozed I listened to The Rest Is History’s recent podcasts on Ireland, which were brilliant, CMAT’s last album, and then Today on BBC Radio 4.

The sun was shining, traffic was light, I’d had a breakfast roll and two coffees, and the company was good, and I was in top form…until I saw the sign for Carrigadrohid, Tadgh’s home village, and I started to well up. I was glad to have got that over with before we arrived at Canovee church, and we parked, and settled into our seats.

The mass started and 5 priests slowly made their way to the altar and I found that very moving for reasons I still can’t explain.

I got some light relief from the fact that Barry was doing the First Reading, and looked forward to joking with him later about him needing to wear flame resistant footwear before he stepped on the altar. Damien did the second reading which was from the Book Of Revelations and mentioned holocausts , annihilation, and damnation which I thought sounded like a list of the bands that Damien worships , and made a mental note to say that to him later.

I held my Soulmates hand during the heartfelt homily and later during Mark’s ‘not a eulogy’ at the end, and in between my sniffles and little sharp intakes of breath I could hear hers and we squeezed each other’s hand in comfort.

The mass ended and I went in search of a toilet, and congratulated myself that I’d made it through the mass with totally letting go. I eventually went outside to the front of the church where people were standing talking and I spotted the Lyons boys, all of Tadgh’s sons standing in a row beside the hearse. I walked up to Barry to commiserate and slag him about doing the first reading, but I just hugged him and bawled my eyes out. I couldn’t say a word. And then I proceeded to do the same with Mark, Martin, Paul , Damien, and Tadgh’s son-in-law/arch-nemesis Gerry.

At least that’s it all out of my system now.

Then I turned to see Maureen, Tadgh’s wife standing by the church gate and I think I’d started bawling again before I even got within a metre of her. She gave me a big hug and said over my muffled crying “I have a present for you.” And she handed me a black cap. “He’d have wanted you to have it.”

I thanked her and then Anne Marie, Tadgh’s favourite daughter, grabbed me and I sobbed uncontrollably AGAIN !

I then walked away holding Tadgh’s cap and stood in the shade of some trees and kept making that rippling breath intake sound that children make if they’re inconsolable.

I was inconsolable. I’d lost my friend.

My Soulmate found me and she walked me back to the car and held my hand and I started to feel better.

We drove to the graveyard and after the burial and a few prayers Barry spoke to the crowd.

“Despite pleading with him not to, Dad made us promise to play this song at the end. Again , I stress, we had nothing to do with this. This is Dad’s wish.”

Someone at the back pressed play on a cassette player and the dulcet tones of Big Tom filled the graveyard singing “Going Out The Same Way I Came In”. It was dreadful…but funny. Tadgh , as always , had the last laugh.

We then went to the Castle Hotel for lunch together. Anne Marie came over to chat.

“So, Mum gave you the cap ? The boys won’t be happy about that !”

I felt bad and was going to offer it back to Maureen to give to one of the boys. But then as each of the boys came over and jokingly mentioned the fact that I got the cap, I grew determined to keep it, just to wind them up. Barry came over and said “So, you got Tadgh’s cap ?”

“No.” I replied, “I have my cap.”

“Well there’s nothing special about it, he had loads of caps in fact and that was the worst one, you probably just Mam having to find a bin for it.”

This made me even more determined to keep it. I think I might set it up it’s own Instagram account.

We spent another hour saying goodbye to everyone, before we headed back home.

My Soulmate drove home and we arrived just after 9.30pm. We opened a bottle of Rioja and reminisced about Tadgh, Maureen, their wonderfully glorious children, and Barry.

Yesterday was a gift.

Love was expressed, shared , hugged, and Tadgh was at the centre of it all.



P.S. This is from “The Tadgh’s That Bind” (June 2022)

This week has seen me enter the 4th and final cycle of my Chemolympics. On Wednesday I had my last ‘double dose’, which was my 10th treatment overall. And this evening my Soulmate gently stabbed me in my tummy with the last of my white blood cell growth stimulator injections. I have two treatments left over the next two Wednesdays and then a short break before my operation.

I’ve thought a lot about my fellow Chemolympians, friends from the past and present, all unconnected to each other, except through me. Denise, my Trinity course colleague, wonderful artist, whose summer popsicle painting hangs in our kitchen, and who the otter is named after in my recent award winning ‘Trouble Murphy’ short story. Pat, my fellow wild dog of footwear retailing. At one time he owned 4 shops around Dublin, and I sold him Skechers. We always ended up in each other’s company at trade fairs in Germany and the UK. We played a bit of golf, but annoyed everyone else by not taking it seriously. I managed to help him and Santa out one year when I got him an original Buzz Lightyear months after they were sold out everywhere. I’d actually bought two, and wanted one for myself. When I told him I had one, he asked immediately for another as his son’s cousin had asked for one as well and his parents would have a devil of a job explaining why Santa didn’t love him as much as his cousin. We had many a late night in many fine restaurants, sometimes with our Soulmates, sometimes only the two of us. Glory days.

And Tadhg.

For my English and Yankee readers Tadhg is an old Celtic name that’s pronounced the same as Tiger, but without the r sound at the end.

I seem to have known Tadhg all of my adult life. He is married to SoulMate’s wonderful Aunty Maureen and lives in a hill, two hills across from another hill that overlooks Carrigadrohid, which is close to Macroom, but isn’t really.

I’m quite sure I knew Tadhg’s son Mark before I knew Tadhg. Mark was convalescing in my SoulMate’s mother’s house for a few months after a motorbike crash. We went for pints…regularly.

I assume I met Tadgh for the first time at a Clerkin wedding. Tadhg’s wife and my Soulmate’s mother were originally Clerkins, there’s a lot of them and they loved weddings, which in turn were always big weddings because there were a lot of them.

Tadhg and I met at one such wedding. He bought me a drink for looking after Mark.

We seemed to bump into each other a lot after that.

A few years later Mark’s younger brother Barry got a job in Monaghan and he stayed with my SoulMate’s mother for the two years he was here. We became firm friends. Later still we ended up buying our first homes in Clane and would socialise regularly together with Barry’s sister Anne Marie who lived nearby in Celbridge. Our partners all got along famously and we had dinner in each other’s company and only ever fell out over board games. Anne Marie’s partner Gerry can be a tad competitive!

With a son and a daughter living close to each other Tadhg and Maureen were regular visitors.

When my Soulmate’s brother Stephen got married to Maria, for some mildly insane reason, he asked me to be his best man. It was the first wedding for us both. People immediately started asking was I not nervous about the speech. This began to prey on my mind…a lot. I’d never spoken in public before, and didn’t know too many people going apart from Stephen’s immediate family. There would be another 30 or so people that I vaguely knew and then 100 or so that I didn’t know at all.

I didn’t sleep the night before the wedding …this was a combination of nerves and Stephen’s snoring! The wedding ceremony went off without a hitch and we all made our way to the Ostan Gweedore for the reception. I couldn’t eat a thing at the meal, and thought we’d never get to the speeches. Eventually the desserts were being served and I stood up to speak, and then saw that half the crowd had left the reception to go and take photos of Mary Robinson, our recently elected President…the bastards!

I thought of running away.

Eventually Mary left and they all took their seats again, and we started the speeches. I got through mine. I remember very little of it, just that I ‘d started by telling how Stephen and Maria had met as students in Galway. Stephen and his housemates called to Maria’s house asking to borrow a potato peeler. I finished my speech by congratulating Stephen on marrying the finest looking potato peeler in Gweedore!

After the speech Tadhg came up to me grabbed my hand and shook it ferociously, and just said “Brilliant ! Best speech I’ve heard. Brilliant !” then he let go of my hand and walked away, saying to people at various tables that he passed “Wasn’t that speech brilliant ?” pointing back at me.

I was 10 feet tall !

I hadn’t written a single thing since leaving school until that speech. Looking back now, I think I can say with a fair degree of honesty that Tadhg’s handshake encouraged me to continue.

So, yes, it’s all his fault!

In Celtic culture the name Tadhg signifies a poet or a philosopher.

Most people would say that Tadhg is a man of few words…and ‘a few’ is probably being over generous.

We have met on many occasions. Our conversations start in one of three different ways :

One – “Well Paul.” This is a friendly greeting and signifies that we are well disposed to each other and I can talk to him about anything.

Two – “Well now Paul” This is also a friendly greeting , but carries some implication that I’ve done something that may need explanation.

Three – “Paul Bond !” This is said in a slightly admonishing tone, which means he’s heard something that I’ve done that he’s mildly shocked by, and definitely requires explanation.

Regardless of how they start I do most of the talking. Tadhg is a great listener.

One of our best ever chats took place in 2013 when we went to stay with Tadhg and Maureen in Cork for Maureen’s 70th. We were very honoured to be invited and headed off from Monaghan, collecting Geraldine in Dublin Airport on the way. We took the kids as we knew that all Mark, Barry ,Anne Marie, Damien, Paul and  Martin’s kids would be there. Maureen and Tim’s house is built onto the side of Gerry and Anne Marie’s house, so this is where the party would be. It was a beautiful day, and the kids were banished outside while the house and food were prepared. I went outside to the kids and obviously started a water fight. It was a great water fight.

There are a number of things that make a water fight a truly great water fight.

One – Water.

Two – Kids in their best clothes, dressed for a special occasion, and not a water fight.

Three – Adults/parents getting vexed and annoyed at the fun we’re having,

It was an EPIC water fight.

Tadgh laughed…mostly at how annoyed Barry and Gerry were when I started running through the house to use the kitchen tap to fill bottles for the fight.

Later that night when everyone had calmed down and eventually gone to bed, Tadgh and I sat in his sitting room and chatted …and drank until dawn. Maureen came down to join us at about 2.00am, and chased us to bed before the others began to get up for breakfast.

We discussed his kids, my kids, life, wedding we were at, memories from his life, and woven through it all was his philosophy.

This came back to me this week.

I watched ‘My Neighbour, Totoro’, an amazing film, which you can catch on Netflix. Totoro reminded me of someone. It was only when Satsuki passes an umbrella to Totoro at the bus stop and he smiles that I figured it out. Totoro is Tadhg.

And all week I’ve had Gang of Youth’s song ‘Do Not Let Your Spirit Wain’ rattling around my head. It’s made me think of Denise, Pat, but mostly Tadhg, whose philosophy it puts to music…the good bits, not the sad bit.

Author: paul

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