Two members of an old Clonmel family, the Timoneys, Fr. Charlie, a missionary in the Philippines, and Sr. Anthony, a Poor Clare in Galway, have devoted their lives to the service of the poorest of the poor and to God.
‘Out of sight, out of mind,’ was how it was put to me recently by a concerned and caring Clonmel lady, regarding the remarkable lives of two members of an old Clonmel family.
Not so much the individuals themselves, per se, who are very special, but rather to highlight their amazing lives devoted in the service of God and in the service of the poorest of the poor.
In particular she wanted to highlight the continuing work of a Clonmel priest in the Philippines, Fr. Charlie Timoney, and his selfless and never-ending efforts following the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan last November, a super typhoon that struck on 8th November and affected nearly 13 million people, including over 6,000 deaths.
The destruction left in the aftermath of the strongest tropical cyclone ever to make landfall was of biblical proportions leaving nearly two million people homeless and many more in need of food.
It prompted the Clonmel-born priest, a member of the White Fathers (Missionaries of Africa) to make a desperate appeal.... “I used to be shy about begging for money. No longer,” he said at the time.
For a priest who had seen nearly 50 years of missionary work on four different continents this was beyond anything he had seen before.
When I contacted Fr. Charlie in the Philippines he told me his story in detail...
“My Christmas letter last year was an unashamed begging letter. But my relatives and friends, not least in Clonmel, responded magnificently. Our Typhoon Fund reached well over€50,000. A heavy responsibility surely but a privilege to use it to rebuild lives and houses.
“I have worked closely with the Pro Infante et Familia Sisters here in Cebu. They are at the coalface and work closely with the people. I travelled with them to a remote mountain village in Northern Cebu. There the villagers told the Sisters that no other NGO or Government Agency had helped them but the Sisters and our Fund had. They said we had ‘been a blessing to their people’.
“I recall the philosopher Bonhoeffer saying that a blessing is ‘a visible, perceptible, effective proximity of God’, Fr Charlie explained.
But almost a year after the typhoon the work goes on and so does the appeal and anyone who still wishes to help can do so to the details on this page.
Older Clonmel folks might remember the Timoney family who lived at St. Vincent de Paul Terrace, on the Davis Road (now opposite Marks & Spencer Shopping Centre).
FR CHARLIE TIMONEY’S CLONMEL MEMORIES
Fr Charlie takes up some of his Clonmel memories ......
“It was in Ss. Peter and Paul’s Church in Gladstone Street that my parents, Charlie and Bridy Timoney, were married. It was in that same church that my three sisters and I were baptised and confirmed.
“My three sisters Pidgeon, Anna and Kay were all educated by the Presentation Sisters. Pidgeon worked in Galway for some years and then joined the Poor Clares (she is now Sr. Anthony). Last year she was diagnosed with cancer but is now in remission. Anna and Kay married two Canadian brothers and have lived over there ever since.
“I was ordained in Gladstone Street in 1968. It was the first ordination ever in the church though I have no photos to prove it. The good Canon O’Gorman would not countenance cameras or photographers in his church. The Mayor of Clonmel was to do the First Reading but the Canon had a sleepless night worrying about a layman being on the sanctuary and so for peace sake one of our ‘ordained’ men did that First Reading. Truly a man of the old school, bless him.
“On the same street was the Ormond Hotel and from its balcony in the early 1950s I heard and saw my first black African Bishop. It must have been the famous Bishop Kiwanuka of Uganda. Was there a seed of vocation being sown in those early years? Perhaps. There surely was in the Old School in Kickham Street where, in First Class, I heard Brother Coleman talk of Africa. I have no memory of what he said but a rare feeling of ineffable joy has remained with me. Our mysterious God can even talk to six-year olds.
“I remember my schoolboy friend, John, from O’Rahilly Avenue. He and I used to climb over the fence of the Quarry Field where Bulmers had its big shed. We played among the wooden crates of empty cider bottles and built castles. On one occasion we came across three unopened bottles of Champagne Cider. We managed to twist off the tin-foil and take a sip. Nice and bubbly. We went out to play and came in again for another sip. And so it went. Soon there were two nine year olds, staggering around drunk as Lords. John tried to climb up on the boxes but kept falling off. He swore like a trooper. I doubled my vocabulary of choice words that day. Moral of the story ? If you must get sloshed, do it in style and start early.
“Brendan Granville is another name that comes to mind. He and I were in the Legion of Mary and used to deliver the ‘Catholic Herald’ around Ard na Greine. Our motives were not entirely religious. There were some pretty girls at those addresses and the hope was that they would answer the door and exchange a few words and smiles. In those innocent years such gestures would have made our day.
“I recall at ‘The Nationalist’ Brendan Long who, in the Fifties, produced the play ‘Columbus in a Merry Key’. I was part of the cast. Brendan was a multi-talented man and our neighbour on Davis Road. Editor William Darmody always had a warm greeting for us as he walked home from ‘The Nationalist’ – a kind and gracious man.
“Ann Marie and Larry Kehoe who bought our house on Davis Road used to live there with my mother when I was in Africa and she was very appreciative of their company. We have been good friends ever since. Carmel Drohan (Irishtown) was also exceptionally caring of my mother when she was deteriorating with Alzheimers in St. Michael’s.
“Opposite our house was the Soccer Field with a beautiful Copper Beech. Pidgeon used to climb that tree – right to the top. Ann Marie took me to that very place when last in Clonmel – it is now the roof car park of M&S. I could almost see into my old bedroom. A few doors down lived Timmy Ryan - the envy of the road for his superb football and basketball skills.
“In the early 1960s and leaving the High School behind, the late Mossy Patterson, Michael O’Dwyer (from Oliver Plunkett Terrace) and myself headed off to London. There we would seek our fame and fortune. Over the years I lost touch with them both. Then last year, 53 years later, who sends me an email but Michael O’Dwyer. Michael now lives in Kingston-on-Thames and has had a very successful life in Hotel Management. It was great to meet him there and talk of old times. While in London we came to know Paddy Lonergan. He had a black and white photo showing how slim we all were then! Some years ago – again a half a century later - we met in his pub in Fethard.
“After my first stint in West Africa I returned to Clonmel and hired a scooter from Bill Purcell. I drove to Portlaoise Prison to visit my cousin John Morrissey. (Being a political prisoner he was later transferred to The Curragh). His father, Jeff , legend has it, was on the run with De Valera. Jeff worked in The Blackrock in the Narrow Street (Mitchel Street). John’s mother, Jo, and my aunt, worked for years in the ‘Sporting Press’. I scootered up to Portlaoise wearing a Roman Collar and thinking it would ease my passage into the prison. It was a bad mistake.
“The previous month some monks from Portelone Abbey in Northern Ireland were caught trying to smuggle an IRA man across the border. They had dressed him in clericals. So my identity was suspect. I was seriously and lengthily quizzed and probed by the Governor. Eventually I was allowed in to see John but with a phalanx of gun-toting security guards surrounding me. John was released that same year and I officiated at his marriage to Deirdre Foley. They now live in Bray.
“Liam Boyle and our ‘gang’ used to go to the First Bridge, cross the Frenchman’s Stream and enter the Wilderness. There we placed six inch nails on the track and waited for the 250-ton steam engine to flatten them into neat little daggers. For other amusement we threw stones at the greyhound enclosure near Powerstown Park. That sent the dogs wild. Another pastime was “dudding” orchards. (that’s surely a Clonmel - verb ?).
“The Clonmel Library was next to the Ritz Cinema (now Clonmel CU). The only book I remember borrowing from it was a big one on the stars. I have been an avid astronomy fan ever since. As a missionary I have had the privilege of living and working in four Continents and I’ve dragged my telescope to all of them. When in South Africa I was thrilled to see the Southern Cross right above my head. Impossible to see from Clonmel.
“My last mission appointment has been here in the Philippines. Last year I returned here from home leave on the 7th November and the very next day Typhoon Yolanda struck. It flattened Tacloban on the neighbouring island of Leyte and devastated the tip of our island (Cebu). The battered people of that city expect Pope Francis to visit them in January next year.
“Let me finish with a quote from another favourite author of mine: Morris West. ‘Life has served me as it serves everyone, sometimes well and sometimes ill, but I have learned to be grateful for the gift of it, for the love that began it and the other loves with which I have been so richly endowed.’
“And it all began in Clonmel,” concluded Fr. Charlie.
Philippines, July 2014.
Fr. Charlie’s Appeal details as follows:
Typhoon Fund c/o Charlie Timoney,
Sector Treasurer, Fr. Neil Loughrey, Missionaries of Africa,
Cypress Grove, Templeogue, Dublin 6 W
Sr. Anthony, Poor Clare Order
Fr Charlie’s sister, Pidgeon Timoney, is a member of the Poor Clares Order and is based at Nun’s Island in Galway.
Sr. Anthony as she is now celebrated her golden jubilee 50th anniversary in the enclosed contemplative order last year.
Pidgeon was educated at the Presentation Convent in Clonmel where she sat her Leaving Certificate. During her schooldays she was a very active member of the Island Rowing Club.
After her Leaving Cert Pidgeon took up work in Galway and studied at University College Galway at night.
She later decided to join the Order of the Poor Clares and has devoted her life to Prayer and to God ever since.
Some years ago Sr. Anthony featured on a television programme about Irish cities produced by John Creedon. In it she recalled her childhood in Clonmel and her life of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience. And praying for Fr. Charlie and his work in the Philippines no doubt.
Last year Sr. Anthony was diagnosed with cancer but is now in remission. She devotes her all-clear from cancer to the divine work of St. Padre Pio.
All in Clonmel send her best wishes for full health and a happy life for the future.