The late Matt Whelan
Some fishermen are often seen as mysterious, endlessly on the banks of rivers, totally absorbed.
Matt Whelan, who died last February, fished over many years almost every inch of the river Suir from Poulakerry, Killaloan to Clonmel and out to Knocklofty, during which time he remained quiet, thoughtful and very balanced.
Matt was born and reared in The Rink, Queen Street before his family moved to Bolton Street when he was just five years old.
In later life Matt moved to Elm Park. Having spent a number of years in the High School he moved to the Technical School, where he studied for a number of years.
He commenced his apprenticeship as a fitter/turner in Curran's Engineering Works, continuing as a student at evening classes in the Technical School.
On the completion of his apprenticeship he moved to London in the late 1950s and lived and worked in Barnes, where he also continued his technical studies, completing all the relevant City and Guild examinations.
In October 1961 a report in The Nationalist quoted Mr. MacGabhann, a metalwork teacher in Clonmel Technical School, on the school's difficulty in recruiting a qualified metalwork teacher due to an inexplicable nationwide shortage in this faculty.
In the circumstances it was decided to recall Matt Whelan, a former pupil, and appoint him as a temporary metalwork teacher.
It is worth reflecting on Matt’s reaction when he received an unexpected telegram asking him to return as a teacher and the subsequent conversations with his good friend, the late Johnny Somers - they had emigrated together- the most imaginative view would surely fall far short of the reality.
The recall was a singular honour and a tribute to his technical prowess. As it turned out the late Jeff Keating, the distinguished Irish teacher, also availed of Matt’s fluency in Irish to assist in teaching that subject.
The call of the workplace must have been strong, as after about eighteen months Matt recommenced working, first in the Oil Refinery in Whitegate and later in the Sugar factory in Thurles.
He also worked for a short period in Bulmers.
Matt eventually worked in the cngineering section of South Tipperary County Council. He served faithfully there as a fitter/turner and welder until his retirement in 1994.
Circa 1963, in the company of my father-in-law, the late Tom Fahy, I met Matt in Thurles. There was an instant warmth between them.
Remarking on this encounter to another technical man, the latter’s response was instantaneous- "these are the most vital men in the factory".
Tom maintained the electricity supply and Matt managed the vital maintenance of the machinery.
An avid reader on a wide range of subjects, he carried it lightly.
Matt married Chris Noonan from Drangan, and their son James and daughter Marie live and work in Clonmel.
Also survived by his sister Melia (Boyle) in Clonmel, he was predeceased by his sisters Peggy (Condon) and Kitty (Quigley) and brother Jimmy.
Matt’s parents Jim and Madge (neé Tynan) were highly respected in the town.
Essentially a very modest man, Matt lived a quiet but wholly contented life within a family who cherished him always but especially throughout his last difficult illness, mainly in their home.
He was a good man in every sense.
- Frank Marshall