<p>View of Carlingford from the sea</p>

View of Carlingford from the sea

Memories

John Woods recalls his memories of John McKevitt who died 22nd of November 2023

Uploaded: 27/11/2023

Dia dhuit,
Muintir Cairlinn,
Bhi gra mor ag John don teanga Gaelach.
Usaid se e go minic agus bhi se in a bal don Circeal Comhra nuair a bhi se ar suil in Café Dan.
One of my sons yesterday related to me that Master John barged into a crowded classroom on a beautiful sunny day and demanded to know why they were not out in the playground during break time and followed it up by shouting O. U. T. spells “amach” . My son is dyslexic.
John’s childhood coincided with my twenties, so I didn’t know much about him then. He first came to my attention as part of a tough full back line with Cooley Kickham’s on a minor championship winning team in 1971 which featured other Carlingford players, John O’Callaghan, P.J. Rice, Eamon McCartan, Paddy McShane, Willie and Jimmy Kirk.
Incidentally, on the same day, I won my only Senior Championship medal with Cooley in my final season.
A bearded John McKevitt won a Louth Senior Championship medal With Cooley Kickham’s in 1978.
He even managed a lady’s football team which played a final in the Yank’s Field [now Harbour Cottages] in the 1980’s.
John became a national schoolteacher, eventually arriving home to Carlingford National School under headmaster Brendan McKevitt. He immediately got involved in schools Gaelic football, coaching, training, shouting, ferrying players with Des Savage, all the while playing rugby as a very valued, loose head prop with Dundalk Rugby Club. He had an exceptionally long career as a rugby player winning a Provincial Town’s Cup in 1987.
He mentioned to me recently that he was very proud of the fact that he was playing as prop when his son, Michael John was out half on the same team. That record will be hard to beat.
When he finished playing, he took up coaching and continued in that role for many years. He served as President of the Rugby Club in recent times and rarely missed a match or function.
And we are not done yet.
In between times, he put his eye on a young maths teacher from Cork in St Michaels Omeath. I knew about that because my children were at school there. One of my daughters was fond of taking off the petite Miss Ring, and the authoritative way she controlled a classroom. She could take six-foot teenage boys to heel with a glance.
She was one of those teachers who made a big impression on those she taught and is still talked about by those who had the privilege of being her pupils.
John and Teresa married and began their family. Michael John, Bob, and Sally who are a credit to their parents, not least, for the loving care of Teresa and John.
In his spare time, John took up sailing with Carlingford Sailing Club and like everything else he did, he gave it his all. He raced and crewed and skippered Dingys Lazers and all the rest, eventually graduating to a cruiser “Shenanigan”, which he shared with his great friends Paddy Bell and Sean Rice.
There were epic voyages involving the Azores, the Camino and the Mediterranean shared with Tommy McKeown, Jim Slater, Padraic Monnelly, and others.
He would keep you going with his stories of escapades in Shenanigan.
He told me he had a deal with Teresa, to ease the pressure of being the local schoolmaster and living locally, that he had 2 or 3 nights when he did his own thing, in between being the star of Teresa’s plays and shows.
John was a committee member of the early Carlingford Heritage Trust. I was reminded recently that part of John’s regular contributions to proceedings was the insistence, that the premises that we were constructing in Tholsel Street, be sold to “Locals”.
Around that time I was having a bit of a tough time and I will always be grateful that John and Teresa were 100% in my corner.
When talk began to circulate locally about the possibility of building a community centre for Carlingford on the lines of Cooley Kickhams or the Pat’s, a meeting was held in the Hall, with the usual suspects present, and John found himself proposed as chairman of a new committee to investigate further.
He gathered a strong committee around him and Carlingford Community Development Ltd. was formed in about 2000, the year of the millennium. ..
Plans were drawn, the building went up and fundraising went on, and on, and on. Grants were drawn down from every conceivable source and bank loans were secured until the Foy Centre was completed in 2005. John continued as chairman and driver until last year when the last loan was repaid. That’s 20 years, a long time.
It was a struggle and took a lot of energy.
A feature of the fundraising was the plays and shows performed by Carlingford Drama Group directed by Teresa and always featured John in a main part.
Currently moves are afoot to expand the facilities of the Foy Centre to include tennis, a soccer pitch and a new rugby pitch. John recently saw the first draft of a possible plan for this development and he was excited by it.
He was also enthused by the makeup of the present committee.
His vision of the Foy Centre becoming the heart of this community is being realized.
John’s community activism was sparked again when a plot was hatched in the sailing club, to form a local choir. The plotters were himself and Clodagh, a fellow sailor. The omens were not too good when only about five or six answered the call. I always had an ambition to sing in a choir, in spite of my lack of any musical talent. Clodagh persevered and we began to enjoy the sessions.
John’s sweet, dulcet, tones were a constant butt of Clodagh’s comments and fun for the rest of us. He always took it in good heart and gave as good as he got.
Eventually, we were half ready to take on the world, and a trip to Brunico, Italy was arranged for a choral festival, Elaine becoming the chief bottle washer. It was magical, and we even came home with a budding romance between one of our ladies and a French chorister, which endures to this day.
Other memorable trips included Kiltimagh, Castlebar, Aumetz, Verdun, Dervio, and Rome. Along the way, we made many friends.
We hope Cor Cairlinn did justice to John today.
John’s second last public performance was on the 50th-anniversary celebration of the Carlingford Pipe Band when there was no hint of his impending illness.
He was so proud of the pipe band which has represented this community for the past 50 years. He loved the fact that many of the same families have had members continuously, for 50 years. He spoke with pride and we heard, even when the mike failed, “ That this was one of Carlingford’s greatest days” The people that packed the Square that day were mostly local.
John’s final public performance was as Tarry Flynn in Castleblaney, when he came from hospital to take his place with the choir and players, in the production, first mooted by himself, Teresa and Clodagh, before Teresa became ill. I argued against the proposed performance and lost, to the power of John’s will and strength. That day John was magnificent with Elizabeth Ann as his would-be lover, Mary Reilly.
John was the very essence of community.
About two years ago he completed the Malin to Mizen cycle with his far-out cousin and friend Dan McKevitt in aid of Maria Goretti. This summer, during the dry spell, after Teresa’s passing, John was a volunteer out watering plants for Tidy Towns in the early morning.

I know we will never see his likes again.