It was appropriate that the strains of a moving rendition of “You’ll Never Walk Alone“ filled a packed Ss.Peter & Paul’s Church in Clonmel as a sad farewell was bade to Michael Burke .
Throughout his life, which was cut heartbreakingly short due to an illness he bore with great dignity over the last six months, Michael was never alone.
Michael, or Mike to his legion of friends, had such an engaging personality, a master craftsman by trade and a master conversationalist by nature, that people were always content in his company.
As a result Mick was always among friends captivated by his warmth, wit, kind and gregarious character.
His untimely passing on February 18 caused incalculable grief to his wife Mary, daughter Sarah, son Vincent, grand-daughter Brooke and his four younger sisters Mary, Breda, Anne and Bernie.
Born on October 8, 1947 to the late Vincent and Margaret Burke, Weirview, Glenegad Road, Mike, from a very young age showed an amazing talent for art and loved English and History. He was educated at St. Mary’s Primary School and Clonmel High School after which he underwent a plastering apprenticeship under the watchful eye of his father.
He enjoyed passing on his knowledge and experience, not just to apprentices he took under his wing but also to other tradesmen. His work brought him to Portlaw, County Waterford where he met the love of his life, Mary Morrissey.
They married in 1973 and had two children Vincent and Sarah of whom he was extremely proud. A caring and kind family man he was a devoted grandad to Brooke. Mike loved to take her to and from school and all the other kids simply knew him as grandad.
His artistic talents were recognised nationally when he won a prestigious Texaco award at a young age. He was a founding member of South Tipperary Arts Group and generously enjoyed passing on the skills to young members. He was a member of the Clonmel Writers Group, a member of the Holy Year Cross Committee and the County Museum Advisory Group. “The county and country needs more people like Michael Burke” commented one of the mourners among the large crowd that attended the obsequies.
Mike had a great appreciation of the simple beauty that surrounded him and the great sense of identity and pride of place he held were portrayed in his beautiful and much admired pen and ink creations which adorn many houses and public buildings.
He had a great eye and would spend hours lovingly creating images of familiar landmarks such as the Main Guard and the Gashouse Bridge in Clonmel and the Square and the Copper Lodge in Portlaw, his second home.
He wrote a diary every day and had the unique gift of being equally as entertaining and expressive in the written word as he was in the spoken word.
Mike was a lover of history, his inquisitive nature would lead to many adventures as the intrepid historian would take off on his own to explore the battle sites of Galloppoli and Flanders to witness the scene of the great world events that captivated him .
Mike, a wonderful neighbour to all in the Old Bridge, was known for his passion for a number of clubs, that brought him heartbreak and joy in equal measure.
He was a loyal supporter of West Ham United and often travelled to roar on the Hammers at Upton Park where he was always a welcome visitor among fellow fans.
He took great pride in supporting Waterford hurlers and immersed himself wholeheartedly in the rituals associated with the day of a big game in Semple Stadium or Pairc Ui Chaoimh. Regardless of the result those days were always special to Mike, as he participated in a collective celebration of his own home county.
The third club he was closely associated with was the exclusive twenty past eleven club at Bernie Mac’s in the Old Bridge with his co conspirators Willie (RIP), Joe Martin and Liam.
Now that his soul has been ‘committed to the saints’ Mike has moved on to join the 24/7 club where you would expect his company will be just as highly regarded and sought after as it was among his family, friends and neighbours throughout his life.
“Good Night and God Bless”
Mike Burke’s Months Mind Mass will be held on Friday, March 21 at Ss Peter & Pauls at 7.30.
(By Eamon Lacey)