Friday, 13 February 2009


Frank Phillips ~ R.I.P. ~
1923 - 2009
At Frank’s removal from Griffin’s funeral home yesterday
I shared these words as my tribute to a remarkable uncle.

He was an extraordinary man for many reasons and had several strings to his bow. The list of his interests included books, horses, darts, cats ,bikes (motor, pedal and electric !),working on the land, and reminiscing about days gone by. His precise memory of people, places and events stretching back into the distant past meant that he became the mainstay of our small family circle, being the repository of our family history. When questions arose over some half-remembered event Frank was our archive whose word on these matters was reliable and final.
One of his passions
On the evening of his death his power of recall seemed intact, even though he was having difficulty communicating . Tony and I sat by his hospital bed talking to Frank and doing our best to make sense of what he was saying, his speech having been impaired by the stroke. Earlier in the week I had heard on the radio that the last big snow to hit Ireland was in 1982 and before that in 1947, so as I shared this with Frank I was pretty sure that for once I'd have the last word ! I should have known better, he went back further than any of us and he said with great effort " 1936 ". So once again and for the last time I bowed to his superior memory.
I have a memory as a child listening to my mother reading aloud Frank's letters from England in which he recalled every stick and stone and twist and turn of his beloved Ballycannon. He went to England in 1960 and for almost 40 years worked there on the building sites. In his letters he would go up and down that country road ,enquiring about neighbours and reminiscing about the 'old days' Later as the letters got scarcer and the telephone was used, my mother would settle on a stool for a long session when he rang. My mother had a soft spot for 'Francie' (as we called him then), and always worried about him growing old in London. In fact just before she died she set the train in motion that allowed Frank to return to his native soil. Sadly she never lived to see him settled here but it gave here immense satisfaction to know that his return was imminent. And for the last eleven years he has lived within sight of the house where he was born, in the historic heart of Limerick, shadowed by King Johns Castle beside the Treaty Stone and near dear old Thomondgate.
With Tony and Ed Sweeney, fellow members
of the Dalcassian Motor Cycle Club at their
Christmas reunion in the Locke Bar.

Frank's prodigious memory allowed him to recite pieces of poetry appropriate to any occasion, and at the drop of a hat he would break into verse and at the end say rather sheepishly "I'm a mine of useless information!" We didn’t consider his contributions useless at all, in fact , we thought of it then, and especially now as a goldmine. In the hurly-burly of life he always seemed to take the time to stop and consider...whether as a young man engrossed in his precious books in the cottage at Ballycannon, or later working on the building sites of London, or more recently as he retraced the scenes of his early life walking or more often cycling out the Long Pavement over the Captains Bridge, turning left at the Sweeps Cross and up through Ballycannon, Ballycar and a young man, in middle age ,as he grew older he never lost that sense of wonderment at the ordinary commonplace things of life. One of Frank's expressions when something impressed him was "Mawervellous isn't it" And that's the way he said it "Mawervellous" And this is probably as fitting a description of his life as any, he was a mawervellous, remarkable man whose passing has left such a huge void in all of our lives.
On his bike !

He wasn't a religious man and the arrangements for today reflect what we believe would have been his wishes. On occasion the subject of faith and belief came up in our discussions and we always ended by agreeing to differ. Today I trust that on Franks final excursion he may yet be pleasantly surprised !
Gerard O'Shea
Frank's burial at Kilquane Cemetery, Parteen.

The Death Notice from the Irish Independent, Tuesday 10 th. February...

PHILLIPS (late of Ballycannon, Ardnacrusha, Co. Clare and London), at the Regional Hospital, Frank; sadly missed by his loving sister Bridie, brother Joe, nephews, nieces, relatives and friends. R.I.P. Memorial Service in Griffin's Funeral Home, John's Gate tomorrow (Wednesday) at 1 o'c. followed by Burial in Kilquane Cemetery, Parteen.

For previous blogs about Frank click on the links below…



Joy Watts said...

Sympathies Gerry, I know from reading the DOH that your Uncle Frank was very special to you and your family. May you know God's comfort as you grieve - Joy

Noreen Drook said...

I was so sad to hear of the death of your uncle Frank I was away in the UK for a few days and could not attend the funeral. What a wonderful tribute you paid to him and so good to read the poem Leisure I had forgotten the words and the sentiment in the verse is so true. Having read all you have written about your uncle he really must have been a great character and thank you for sharing it with me.My sincere sympathy to you and all the family Noreen

Tony said...

Well Ger you gave him the most fitting send off and he deserved no less because he was indeed marvelous.