Michael J. Flannery
I have always appreciated the beauty of the area that I live in, i.e. Bunclody/Kilmyshall and its surroundings. I always considered that it was the mountains, hills, woods and rivers that solely contributed to this being such a nice area to live in. With the passing of my old schoolmaster, Michael John Flannery, I have come to realize that people also contribute to this overall appeal. A larger than life figure, Master Flannery stood out from the crowd, always charming always ready with a song or tune, never squandering a moment of precious life.
He was held in great esteem as a schoolteacher, so much so, that in the years after I had left school, whenever I was asked if he taught me in Kilmyshall, I always thought of my positive reply as sounding a little boastful. Along with the usual things on the curriculum, he alsotaught us lots of songs and often brought his musical instruments to school to play for us. One in particular -a stringed instrument- was a very unusual musical instrument that looked like a one-metre long crooked-shanked smoking-pipe with strings, still stands out in my mind. It was amazing to see that anyone could get music out of such an unusual contraption. He did and we had a great sing-song that day as we sang "Shell be coming down the mountain" "Sliabh na Mon" and of course "The Wests Awake"(a song associated with his native county, Mayo) and other such songs that we as children loved. Nice memories to have and cherish.
Today at the funeral I repeatedly heard a comment that seemed to be like a lot of similar comments often made about someone that had recently died, in that it is traditional to speak well of the dead. But as I considered this comment in my mind, I realized that it was totally true and not just another one of these remarks that are often bandied about at funerals. Time and again people said to each other that they had never heard Master Flannery speak badly of anyone. I did a quick check on my own record in this regard and instantly realised that on lots of occasions that I had spoken in poor terms of people -mostly deserved but perhaps not excusable. Again travelling down memory lane and revisiting times that we had met since leaving his care in Kilmyshall National School, I could not recall a single instance of him speaking poorly of anyone. That seems a fantastic record but people all around the graveyard agreed that this was in fact the case. He will have few enemies in the next world.
My meetings with him, since leaving school, almost always were in a pub. It was in these places, amid the increasing incoherence of some of the other customers that his eloquence stood out. His command of English (and even more so of Irish) was such that he could always say exactly what he wanted to without the need for any extra explanation. For this reason leaving aside for a moment his song and music- his company was always welcomed in the any of the pubs. I know other people who can speak eloquently also, but not with the same unforced ease that Michael J had. Speaking like this in a pub can easily seem pretentious or haughty, but Master Flannery, being a retired schoolmaster, was not only allowed to speak well, but also expected to do so. I look around in vain for someone to fill this void.
As a musician and singer, he and his family could always be relied upon. On numerous occasions they gave of their talents to different functions in this area and further afield. But it was the impromptu sessions in the pubs that I most looked forward to. I often sought out the particular pub that I might find him in and then quietly and inconspicuously wait with my friends to see if he would strike up a song, or tune on his fiddle and thereby start off a music and song session. Those were great times and a time that I am also grateful to him for, as are a lot of other people.
His reputation as a charmer was legendary and some of the "respectable" women of the area were almost afraid to speak to him for fear of succumbing to his charms. His winning ways with the fairer sex stemmed from his like of all women and as previously stated he never spoke badly of any woman, most likely because he never saw bad in them. This paragraph may be a little clumsily written but it and the previous paragraphs will, I hope, give some insight into a man whose departure has made this a poorer area. Lest the wrong impression be given by the mention of pub so many times, he was not a heavy drinker, but enjoyed a few social drinks and especially the good company that is often found in old pubs. My condolences to all who will miss him and may he rest in peace.