The Co. Donegal town of Letterkenny lost one of its most popular adopted sons and politicians with the death of Tadhg Culbert, a native of Limerick Junction, Tipperary.
Mr Culbert, who lived in Letterkenny for almost 40 years, passed away in Donegal Hospice on Wednesday, April 17 at the age of 57 after battling illness for a number of months.
The Fianna Fail councillor was a member of Letterkenny Town Council and had been due to retire from his job with An Post on May 1.
He was son of the late Una and Philip Culbert, two well known figures in Limerick Junction. His late mother was a peace commissioner and was The Nationalist’s Solohead correspondent for many years. His father was a former train examiner and president of the Railwaymen’s Union.
Tadgh Culbert left Limerick Junction in 1973 at the age of 17 to take up a job in Letterkenny Post Office. Shortly after his arrival, he began dating Hylde Flood whom he went on to marry in 1979.
The father-of-two was a keen sportsman, who played hurling with both the Burt and St Eunan’s GAA clubs in Letterkenny. He had also been a member of the local squash, golf and soccer clubs in the town.
His involvement in local politics began when he joined the independent Fianna Fail cumann in Letterkenny. He was elected with three independent FF colleagues to Letterkenny Urban Council where he was appointed twice to the role of chairman.
He moved to the mainstream Fianna Fail party in the 1990s and lost his seat but regained it a decade later, which earned him the name the “Comeback Kid”. He was also elected as mayor of Letterkenny in 2010.
During his political career, he campaigned vigorously for former Fianna Fail minister Dr James McDaid, who was a close friend.
While Tadhg Culbert was a staunch supporter of St Eunan’s GAA Club and his adopted Donegal, he never forgot his Tipperary roots and could often be seen proudly wearing the colours of the Premier County around Letterkenny.
He was a popular figure at Letterkenny Post Office. The Donegal Democrat described how his presence at the post office ensured it was always a happy place to go. “He was a friendly face among the counter staff, someone who loved nothing more than a bit of craic with the customers”.
Letterkenny came to a standstill on April for his funeral. The huge number of mourners who turned out to pay their last respects was a testimony to his popularity.
The Donegal Democrat recounted how the coffin was carried by friends from a host of local organisations of which he had been a proud member on its final journey to St Eunan’s Cathedral.
Fianna Fáil friends and colleagues carried the coffin down the High Road before the pall bearing duties were taken up by members of Letterkenny Town Council and then council staff. After that it was the turn of the sports organisations, the Glencar Inn Golf Society, St. Eunan’s GAA club and Letterkenny Rovers.
The coffin was then borne by the counter staff at the post office and then members of the sorting staff. All along the town’s Main street, large crowds lined the pavements as the funeral cortege made its way farther down before it stopped for another poignant moment outside Blake’s Bar.
Staff members and friends from Tadhg’s favourite local then carried the coffin down to Church Lane, before it was brought up to the cathedral.
Dr. James McDaid gave an emotional graveside oration.
The Donegal Democrat said Dr. McDaid spoke of Tadhg’s popularity and ability to bring a smile to anyone he encountered. He also referred to Tadhg’s battle with illness and how he had managed to deal with the fact that it was a battle he wasn’t going to win.
He recalled how after a hospital visit, Tadhg had asked his daughter, Lisa, not to take him home but instead go for a drive “around his constituency.”
It was, Dr. McDaid said, Tadhg’s chance to have one last look around a town that will be a lonelier place without his unique presence.
Tadhg Culbert is survived by his wife Hylda, daughter Lisa, son Andrew, brothers Tomas, Padraig, Philip and Jarlath and sister Siobhan, sisters-in-law Margo and Patricia and brother-in-law Chris, other relatives and many friends.
His family in Donegal said they wished to thank all those from Tipperary, who sent them messages of sympathy.
A special Mass in memory of Tadhg Culbert will be celebrated in Solohead Church at 11.30am on June 16.