A businessman who ran a successful lounge bar in Clonmel’s town centre for many years died at the beginning of April.
Billy Gibbs operated the bar at Gladstone Street for many years until the late 1990s. Aged 64, he was originally from Ballypatrick and died suddenly in Monkstown in Dublin.
He was pre-deceased by his wife Mary (nee McCann), who died almost 20 years ago. Billy is survived by his son Adrian, daughter Arlene, brothers Jim (Limerick), Edmond, Patrick (Australia), Michael and Bernard and his sister Breda (Clonmel).
His late wife Mary’s sister Nancy, her husband John, Nancy’s brother Michael and his wife Josephine were also very close to Billy.
Paul Morris, Solicitor, delivered the following eulogy -
“Billy, you have done it again – you have completed another disappearing act without any warning or notice. This time we will not get a phone call from Sydney at 10.30pm Australian time / 5.30am Irish time that you have just had the best steak of your life accompanied by a ruby red glass of Merlot.
There will be no more postcards from Canada, Cuba, Gambia or Australia.
At the consecration today, one of the gifts was an atlas to symbolise Billy, the intrepid traveller. Billy was no stranger to different time zones.
“Have passport and MasterCard will travel “ was his motto. The journey, not the destination, was his philosophy.
Billy has now moved from the temporal zone to the eternal, from the material to the spiritual.
Billy had a divine spark within, which drew us to him in friendship and love like moths to a flame. It is that divine spark, the spiritual essence of Billy that we hold dear from now on in our memories. Within the hub of darkness of grief is the hallowed place to cradle the light generated by that divine spark of Billy’s that will inspire us all to keep going on our collective pilgrimage of life with courage, faith and fortitude. There is a time for timelessness. This is Billy’s time for timelessness.
Billy departed this life when his work was done. Since his wife Mary’s death he had brought Adrian and Arlene through the wilderness years of adolescence to adulthood.
What a successful job he performed! He was so proud of Arlene and Adrian’s achievements, not for the sake of the achievements/qualifications themselves, but because they have grown up to be two wonderful ,fully integrated persons reflecting the best of the Gibbs and McCann families.
He took delight in the fact that Arlene and Adrian had found two wonderful loving companions in Aongus and Ruth.
When Billy wanted to do justice to someone in his lifetime he used to use an expression – “in fairness to”. Billy has prompted me to pay a personal tribute on his behalf to Nancy his late wife’s Mary’s sister. The Gibbs family motto is Fortis et Hospitalis – Strength and Hospitality. Nancy, in fairness to you, as Billy might say, you have been a pillar of strength and hospitality and love towards Adrian and Arlene and I wish to bear witness to that fact on Billy’s behalf.
One of Billy’s finest qualities was what it is known in Gaelic as uaisleacht – the closest English equivalent is nobility. Nobility not in the sense of status conferred by birth or political patronage. Uaisleacht includes the virtues of honour, dignity, poise and empathy.
Billy was wild in the sense of unpredictable, creative, passionate, blessed with a sense of humour, respect for others, courtesy and compassion, hope and optimism.
It is probably no accident that he and some of his friends ended up in Mexico as a young man having sampled the delights of Canada and the west coast of America. They ended up in a small town in the middle of nowhere in Mexico.
After a long day’s journey into night in the company of the local mayor, they were invited by the latter to visit another establishment across town. As they walked through the town, the streets became narrower and narrower and the atmosphere more and more oppressive.
Billy eventually turned to his friend and whispered “when I say run– RUN”.
As young men do, they purchased a lot of intoxicating liquor to bring back to the States. Transporting liquor over the border, unknown to them, was a serious federal offence. This fact slowly dawned on them as they saw some of their peers in the queue ahead being searched, their stock seized and arrested. Just as their turn came to go through, a song blared out of the radio – “it’s too late to turn back now”.
We have all had plenty of time to swap stories about Billy and his adventures and express appreciation and wonder at his personal quirks and qualities.
Michael McCann identified one of these as – “there’s logic and there’s Billy’s logic and never the twain did meet”. But it served him well in business and in life.
No one can deny when Billy was at the height of his powers, and fully engaged, he was a force to be reckoned with. The local Vintners Association, The Fleadh Cheoil and National Rehabilitation Local Organisation flourished during his involvement and stewardship.
Billy was utterly fearless. His fearlessness was not just freedom from physical fear, but fearless to love and be loved.
He is one of the few men that lived a life in the spirit of the Sermon on the Mount. That’s where, I suspect, that Billy’s logic came from and derived its inspiration.
He truly looked at life through the perspective of the “third eye”, which philosophers through the ages have sought to do.
Billy had an eye for beauty. The word beauty became flesh in Billy’s minds eye in the form and soul of his wife Mary McCann. He worshipped at her shrine until she was called away from us. Mary was Billy’s ‘Anam Cara’ – ‘Soul Friend’ and still is now and forever.
Billy was a happy man in spite of the sorrows of life visited on him - especially the early tragic loss of Mary some 20 years ago next December. Mary was the person who grounded Billy. She was like the rope and anchor that tethered Billy’s balloon to earth. He tended to float away without her influence.
On one occasion he floated away to Gambia. Standing in one of our local airports one day, Billy had no clear idea where he wanted to go. All he knew was that he wanted to be elsewhere and preferably at a bargain price. He went up to the information desk and asked were there any stand-by seat vacancies and what are the discounts available if one is ready to travel without delay?
He eventually arrived in the capital of Gambia, dust roads; old colonial hotel unchanged since before the Boer War. Billy had a great sense of beauty and was able to describe in a vivid and sympathetic way how beautiful he found the people, in spite of their poverty. They lived at subsistence level. He described in an unforgettable way the peoples’ blue-black complexion, perfect posture, poise, gait and exotic clothing.
Regardless of warnings, Billy as ever was eager to explore and sample the local nightspots.
The Hotel Porter said to him – “Mr Billy, no white man goes out at night around here, but if you insist wait til I get my gun. So they went to what was the local nightclub, which was a cramped, corrugated iron shebeen. It was so dark one could not see one’s hand before one’s face.
There was no electricity in the place. Billy said, “After a while I got used to the dim light that was generated by the white of people’s teeth and my white moon-like face reflected in the bar mirrors”. Lovely, lovely people – had a great night!”
That was our Billy.
Billy and only the happy -go-lucky Billy could get away with that type of experience.