It was John Fitzgerald Kennedy, former president of the United States of America who coined the phrase “Ask not what your country can do for you, but rather ask what you can do for it.” If we insert the words county, club, community and parish with JFK’s country, then we may start to understand the enormous contribution James Holohan, Ballyknockane, Killurney, made to life both in his own parish and much further afield as he fulfilled JFK’s most noble aspiration.
Born at the foot of Slievenamon, James was always a country boy at heart. His dad, a prince among gentlemen passed away while James and all of his siblings were very young. James’ mum, Nora, was a marvellous resolute woman, who kept the farm going, reared her young family and displayed enormous courage and determination throughout her life.
James’s love of all things associated with Ireland especially the GAA developed from an early age. Once the daily chores on the farm were completed, James armed with his camán pucked the ball around with the locals in Kehoe’s field. James watched with admiration as Jim Kehoe’s playing career blossomed for his club, county and province. This was one of James’s hallmarks as the years passed by, not only taking an interest but compiling records of all players who made an impression both within and beyond the boundaries of the local club. James’s annual detailed reports as secretary of the Kilsheelan/Kilcash GAA club are not only an essential historical record but provides the reader an insight into his dedication, exactness, and pure love of all things associated with the GAA.
James’s pursuit of excellence within the GAA was simply relentless, he could never do enough for his native club as he would keep reminding us “I simply love doing things for the club.” His contribution to South board, county board and the annual Tipperary GAA yearbook are quite breathtaking. No one was more delighted than James when Sean Nugent was elected county chairperson, the first from the club, and what a loyal supporter James would have provided for Sean during his term. Sean’s lovely reflection about James highlighted James’s loyalty with Sean aptly capturing everyone’s feelings with the words “James was taken from us in just a few weeks.”
James’s niece, Mairead, described so beautifully life at home growing up in the presence of a loving uncle and genuine caring friend. Her vivid description simultaneously brought understanding smiles and regrettable tears knowing we had come to say goodbye to a wonderful family member, a generous neighbour, and above all a true patriot. Mairead’s description of James multi tasking summed him to perfection. Fr. Carey highlighted James’s pure joy when Tipp won the 2010 All-Ireland, James was on top of the world and could not adequately thank God for all he had in his life.
At the recent GAA awards night, held in Robinson’s, James and Brigid made a most welcome appearance. Despite James’s illness, he exhibited such bravery as he strode to the microphone, spoke passionately about how the club would do this year, the ongoing development, the future of the club while dismissing his own illness as a minor setback. Equally, when Jim Kehoe arrived home after Christmas and asked James would he accompany him on a tour of all the new households within the area during this summer, James’s response “Indeed, Jim I won’t be here in the summer.” James said to his great friend and neighbour, Michael Delany, when speaking of his illness “It is God’s will.” For someone as active and vibrant as James, his acceptance of his illness displayed an incredible level of faith. Such acceptance without complaint of an illness is a rare trait and what James was really saying was recounting that simple effective one line prayer “God, grant us the serenity to accept the things that we cannot change.” Never once did he complain only wishing he could have a little time longer, his main thoughts were for Brigid and not himself.
James was above all else our inspirational leader, never one to seek the limelight, he taught us how to plan a day and live life to the full. He led with example, while always somewhat disappointed if others did not put in the effort, he would never complain, but simply increase his own efforts to compensate so that his beloved club and community would prosper. His ability to plan and fit so much activity into a week was spellbinding. Often the cows would be milked at an opportune time to accommodate the needs of attending a match or a meeting or achieving a deadline. Even the different Mass times available were used to derive the maximum from each weekend.
His accomplishments in a voluntary capacity within our parish can never be equalled. The list is endless, the weekly notes, monthly parish bulletin, the Christmas newsletter, reader at Mass, did the collections, organisation of all activities with Killurney Sports and Social club, the Kilsheelan/Kilcash Juvenile and senior GAA clubs, served on the Parish Council are just a sample along with regular reporting for the Nationalist. He was such a willing volunteer and was at his best when playing a major role in compiling the GAA and Killurney history books, even the annual Killurney Christmas senior citizen party, James insisted on a personal invitation to each senior citizen calling to their door. All of this was completed with Brigid’s assistance and support with her expertise on the computer perfectly complementing James’s community effort.
It may have been a chance meeting when James and Brigid first met, but chance instantly developed into the perfect relationship where they both shared and enjoyed everything they did in life. Despite their huge involvement with the local community, they still managed to find time to travel and loved sharing their own simple everyday things in life. There is scarcely a household within our parish that both James and Brigid are not known and their own house always welcomed comers from all corners of the community and county. Indeed, so many called during James’s short illness, but there were many who would loved to have called but were unsure would their own personal grief inflict even more sadness on Brigid and James.
It is difficult to imagine that James is somewhere else, given how much he loved life, his family, his home, his land, his community and how much more he would have liked to contribute to society. No longer will we witness his familiar forward gait as he strides into the GAA field, often at the crack of dawn to carry out the necessary behind the scene details that constitute the successful running of the club.
The most important date this year will not be a Sunday in September or mid July but a dark and probably wet Friday night in October at the foot of Slievenamon in Killurney hall when James’s table quiz will take place. It would be easier for the organisers not to hold the quiz given James’s huge involvement with it and his unique style in compiling the questions, but James would want it to continue. Yes, we will have a different quiz master, but it will not matter an iota as to where any team finishes, all that is important is that a group will gather in community spirit to remember a most noble and loyal worker who dedicated his life to the betterment of others in the provision of community facilities, yes that hall will be filled to capacity that night.
James’s greatest attribute was as his life long friend and neighbour Michael alluded to during his moving tribute to James “his friendship.” Irrespective of what your thoughts were or how much they differed to James’s, his opinion of you as his friend never diminished, he would simply say “You are entitled to your opinion” and look forward to meeting with you again. Truly, James was not so much a disciple of Our Lord, but simply Our Lord’s brother. This community will be forever in his debt and it is with such deep sadness that we express sympathy to his beloved Brigid and all of the Holohan families as we gather this Saturday night for both James’s Month’s mind and his mum’s anniversary Mass. It was James’s ambition to read at his mother’s Mass, sadly, it was not to be.