When Nuala Kehoe passed away a day before her 66th birthday on December 22 the sense of profound loss was felt far and wide - by her heartbroken family, friends, neighbours, the business community and her extended family.
The use of the term extended family takes on a whole different meaning when speaking about Nuala Kehoe, as that embraced people living in every corner of the country and beyond.
For decades Nuala became like a second mother to so many people that would have entered Annie Kehoe’s public house and guesthouse at 50 Parnell Street in Clonmel. Nourishment, lodgings and companionship were provided- a place that was described by her great friend, the legendary singer Christy Moore, who stayed there when he worked in the bank in Clonmel, as “better than any university”.
Nuala ensured a warm welcome, a home from home for men who left home and arrived in Clonmel to work. Nuala, a motherly figure, provided them with a hearty meal in a unique atmosphere in Parnell Street.
She offered motherly words of wisdom, looked out for everybody who sat in her kitchen and took great pride in seeing them move on in their careers and life. Nuala loved to keep in contact with people who moved away from Clonmel or when they moved out of the cosy environment of Parnell Street to live or get married and remained in the Clonmel area.
The family were overwhelmed by the amount of people who travelled to her funeral, at such a difficult time of the year, from all corners of the country, as well as the messages of sympathy that flowed in from all over the world from men who were fortunate enough to have availed of Nuala’s hospitality in Parnell Street and treasured her friendship.
A desire to look after people, friendship and company was at the heart of her lifelong devotion to the running of 50 Parnell Street,
It was always a family operation, an institution in the town that was established by her late mother Annie Kehoe in the forties in a premises built by her father.
Nuala is survived by her husband John Griffin, daughters Ann and Susan and grandchildren Aoife, Conor, Emer, Danu and Morgan and sons-in-law Tommy and Duncan.
Nuala died on December 22 at South Tipperary General Hospital. She had suffered an illness since 2002 with great dignity. The family are greatly indebted to all of the staff at medical three ward at South Tipp General and also St.Vincent’s, where she received the best of care over the last twelve years. The family were deeply grateful for the support of their regular customers when Nuala died before Christmas.
Nuala lived in Parnell Street all her life, went to primary and secondary school in the Loreto and naturally went into the family business, assisting her mother Annie to run the bar and guesthouse.
She met her husband John Griffin, from Killarney, and they were married in 1968.
Nuala and John worked as a great team in the kitchen preparing meals for customers who would arrive to sit in their kitchen where the meals were prepared. They would come from workplaces all over Clonmel, made up of their own lodgers and regular customers.
Nuala greatly enjoyed the lunchtime conversations, with everything on the agenda. She loved to discuss the happenings of the day in the political world, current affairs and hearing about what was going on in the town.
She had a great sense of humour and would engage in gentle ribbing of a lodger who might have been in breach of strict house protocols late at night. With a great sense of timing she would deliver news of such escapades to an audience at lunchtime, much to the embarrassment of the guilty party.
Outside of work Nuala loved to travel the world, exploring countries she had always dreamed of visiting.
Nuala and her mother Annie, who passed away in 1998, would set off on incredible excursions to China, India, America and Europe. They were on the first Concorde flight from Dublin to Paris, travelled on the Orient Express and in the late eighties went on the QE2 on two occasions.
They loved the British Royal Family and travelled together to attend royal ceremonies and celebrations in England.
In later years Nuala loved taking her grandchildren out for treats and those excursions up the narrow street were just as enjoyable, as she was very proud of her grandchildren and their company was very special to her.
Another great love of Nuala’s was coursing and in particular what the National Coursing Meeting meant at 50 Parnell Street every year.
The place would be packed with men staying from all counties of Ireland and they would return to Parnell Street every year for the annual event.
The atmosphere in the bar at night would be incredible, with great victories celebrated in style, and Nuala loved being part of that great social occasion.
Kehoe’s and the National Coursing Meeting were synonymous with one another. One Kehoe’s customer Mick Egan can remember staying there in the fifties when he moved from Windgap as a sixteen year-old to take up an apprenticeship in the town and the great gatherings that used to take place during coursing week.
Next week the coursing men will arrive again and the same faces will return to Kehoe’s for an emotional reunion.
Nuala’s presence will be sadly missed by all but her daughter Ann said it would have been Nuala’s wish for the great tradition of the coursing and Kehoe’s to continue.
Throughout her illness, during which time the lodgings and restaurant business gradually wound down, Nuala always enjoyed the coursing week and meeting old friends. It was always business as usual during coursing week in Kehoe’s and she would enjoy the proceedings in her “supervisory role”, making sure everybody was looked after.
Nuala’s month’s mind mass will be celebrated next Saturday, January 24 at Ss Peter and Paul’s church at 7.30pm.
- Eamonn Lacey