On my return to the house here at Ardhu about 12 years ago my uncle Frank decided to buy me a garden shed as a kind of house-warming gift. Frank was a onetime neighbour of the Barry’s when he lived at Ballycannon and knew P.J.’s father Mick well, so we arrived at the Ardnacrusha premises to make the purchase. We were warmly welcomed by the man himself then ushered in to the back and the exotic delights of El Paso, a shed P.J. had converted in to a Wild West saloon. Fitted out with a fully functioning bar El Paso had entertained P.J. and friends through many a night and into the early hours, while on that afternoon we remained strictly tea-total ! For over two hours P. J. regaled us with stories and poems and his own distinctive perspective on life in modern Ireland. During the conversation he expressed his admiration for Paddy O’Gorman the journalist who interviewed the ordinary people of Ireland in his radio programme. In fact he presented me with a copy of Paddy’s book, ‘Queuing For A Living’.
About six years ago P.J. hit the headlines when he erected his own headstone at Ballycannon Cemetery falling foul of the local Council Authorities. The headstone bore the epitaph, “What, that time already ?” and “lived in chains…now free at last !” P.J. had to move the stone several times to comply with the Council’s regulations ,but eventually found a resting place where he was buried last month. Only last February an obviously unwell P.J. made his way to attend Frank’s burial at Kilquane and I spoke briefly to him on that occasion. P.J. had a huge sense of the importance of people and place and in his own inimitable manner he added greatly to the colour and diversity of Ardnacrusha and surrounds and indeed to all who knew and loved him. In one final act that demonstrated this quality , he was laid out at McMahon’s funeral home arrayed in a cowboy outfit complete with a US Marshal’s badge, cowboy buckle, waistcoat and bandanna. P.J. is survived by his wife Teresa, son Paul and daughters Kerry and Antoinette.