He celebrated his century with a return to the stage of An Taibhdhearc after 780 years – and drove himself to his 100th birthday party. Tom Quinn is still hale and hearty, and he sat down with Ivan Smyth to talk about his long and eventful life.
Tom Quinn greets me at the front door of his house on a rainy Saturday morning. We pass by pictures and plaques gathered from roughly 86 years of playing the fiddle. He rushes inside and cleans up his plate of toast as we enter his kitchen.
We sit in a corner as he stares out the window at the bushes before directing his attention to the back door which he insists on leaving open. On the windowsill lie leaflets on gardening and scraps of paper. He adjusts his seat and grabs a tea towel to clean up.
He plays with the button of his grey jacket and the collar of his blue shirt. Above his head hangs a balloon celebrating his 100th birthday. To the right, on a wall in the corner but still clearly visible is a clock in the shape of a fiddle.
He is tired but willing to talk about his love of music and his interesting life. He was only home at 12:30am the previous night after playing in the Emerald Bar in Ballinasloe, where he goes every Friday.
He first played the fiddle in 1943 at 14 years of age – but how did he end up doing so?
“My brother; he wanted to buy a gun and my mother wouldn’t let him. As a compromise she bought him a fiddle,” he says, struggling to contain his laughter.
Legendary South Galway fiddle player Jack Mulkere brought Tom’s brother in to the local hall where the Gort man would give lessons to young musicians. It was there that Tom realised he had a passion for music.
“I used to be listening and I was taking it up as quick as he was,” he remembers.
From there Tom decided to play and has continued to do so ever since. He was born on February 24 1919 and is still fit and healthy.
So what is the secret to living such a long life?
“Well I never drank or smoked. No matter where I performed growing up, there was always drinking and smoking but it never bothered me.”
He was raised in Athenry before moving to Ballinasloe in 1941. He worked in St Brigid’s hospital for 42 years and it was there that he discovered his second passion, gardening.
He states: “Halfway through my time there I was put in the garden. I spent half my time as a nurse and half as a gardener. I kept at it after I left in 1983.”
He continues to grow his own vegetables. On his table sits leaflets on different seeds and flowers.
He picks up one before showing me in to his sitting room where he houses potted plants alongside photos of his family and the various groups he has played with. Every item holds a memory for him.
As we return to the kitchen he stares out at his garden as the rain continues to beat down. A car sits outside in the narrow driveway.
The Athenry native says: “I do still drive. I am happy enough at it. All I do is drive down to the chapel and into Ballinasloe.”
He has five children, 14 grandchildren and eight great grandchildren. He married his wife Lily in 1951. They were together for nearly 60 years before she died eight years ago at the age of 87.
His youngest son Declan states: There was a void in his life when she passed away. He was lonely but he had great support from neighbours and friends while his music helped keep him active.”
Declan’s daughter, Niamh, plays the fiddle as her granddad encourages her to when they visit him. Tom’s son Tomás also plays and brings his father to perform every Friday evening.
Declan knows how important music is for his father and how much he has enjoyed playing with the Ballianasloe Comhaltas.
He says: “Dad loves the social aspect. He has a great grá for it. He has played all over the country and loves mixing with people.”
Former neighbour and Irish dancer Michael Cusack says: “When the feis’ would take place, he would start playing at 9am Saturday morning and might not finish until 10pm Sunday evening.”
Tom does not hesitate when asked what he enjoys most about playing the fiddle.
“The company,” he says. “It helps me feel part of the community. I love meeting and talking to people when I go and play.”
Alongside playing every Friday, he also performs in the social services in Ballinasloe on Tuesdays.
“I do play the social services every Tuesday and I am the oldest one in it,” he says, chuckling to himself.
And with that, he gathers his fiddle and plays a tune – one of many played along the way…with many more still to come.
Galway passengers are all smiles at Shannon!
The smiles on the faces at Shannon Airport very much told its own story this week – with passengers taking to skies as the easing of restrictions and the first day of the European Digital COVID Certificates took effect.
And it wasn’t just the joy of travel starting to resume that lifted spirits at the airport but also the announcement by Ryanair of a new once-weekly service to Gran Canaria (Las Palmas) to commence on August 7 – the third new service announcement for Shannon Airport over recent weeks.
There was a real sense of excitement as passengers of all ages became very much at ease with the heightened public safety measures in a ‘back-to-the-future’ day for the West of Ireland gateway airport.
There were reunions as inbound flights arrived but also a palpable degree of anticipation as others got set to depart on the earliest flight out of the airport today, the 7:10am flight to Gatwick.
Among those boarding was Clarenbridge native Claire Tomlin and her husband Jake, together with their three children, including their twins who turn a year old next week.
“It’s been amazing to get back. The kids saw their grandparents for the first time and their cousins and aunties and uncles, so it was fantastic,” said Claire.
“Shannon is just so convenient for us because it’s only about 40 minutes’ drive. So, it just makes everything a lot easier in terms of getting to and from places with little ones. So, yeah, Shannon is a great resource for us. Really, really good. We hope to be able to go back more and more.”
It was smiles all around for Shannon Airport staff as they got back to doing what they do best. “Well, today is a great day because you can see the atmosphere around the place, people are at ease here and they’re glad to be back, they’re glad to get up in the sky again,” said Shannon Duty Free Sales Associate Helen Quinlivan.
“It’s great to see the excitement. People are really looking forward to going back and seeing their loved ones and they’re very at ease.”
Galway In Days Gone By
Silence is golden
Leaders on both sides have stated that the best assistance the country can give in the making of peace is to keep silence.
During the past week there has been a great deal of speculation, most of it harmless enough, as, for instance, the enterprising American journalist’s “exclusive” on the first meeting of the British Premier and the President of the Irish Republic; much of it positively mischievous, as the case of the efforts of a certain journal, which has grown hoary in the reputation for throwing in the apple of discord, to anticipate failure in advance.
Our American colleague was on surer and on safer ground when he told of how de Valera and Lloyd George met.
“Mr. Lloyd George,” he cabled, “was sitting at his desk when the Irish President entered. For just a minute these two gazed fixedly at one another. Then the British Premier walked across the intervening space and shook de Valera by the hand. He led him to a seat where they sat side by side. The atmosphere was tense. They faced one another. Then Lloyd George reached down for a box of cigars. But the Irish President is of Spartan mould. He neither permits himself to drink nor smoke. He politely but firmly waved the box away. Mr. Lloyd George, however, selected and lighted a Havana, and as the smoke curled upwards the atmosphere became decidedly easier!”
The wise and practical man always lays by a store against the time when supplies will be scarce. One of the most serious effects of the prolonged drought is the scarcity of supplies of fodder for cattle-feeding during the coming winter and spring.
The hay crop is not more than half the average yield. The corn crop is far below normal. Turnips in many districts are a partial failure. We have frequently emphasised the importance of growing catch-crops to supplement other feeding stuffs raised on the farm, but it is only under circumstances such as the present that their utility is brought home to farmers. Owing to the early harvest, a larger area than is usual can and should be put down this season. This would make good, to some extent, at least, the shortage of hay and other feeding-stuffs.
The demonstration plots laid down by the County Committee of Agriculture have shown that catch-crops, such as vetches and rye as well as other mixtures, can be successfully grown in all parts of County Galway.
We would urge on farmers the desirability – nay, the necessity – of procuring seed and making early preparation for the sowing of an increased area of catch-crops this season.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.
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A home that can generate rent!
New to the market is this lovely, extremely deceptive and impressive home situated only 450 metres from Clarinbridge village.
Stonebridge House is located on a fine site with a tarmacadam driveway, mature shrubs and trees, water feature, decked area and stables to the rear all adding to the many delightful features of this well-built home.
It was built in 1982 and extended in 1993, creating a bright, spacious home which is perfect for today’s busy, modern family lifestyle.
The main house is a six-bed residence with a two-bedroomed basement apartment offering 3,000 sq ft of family living accommodation.
This makes this property perfect for multi-generational living or should you wish to rent out the basement apartment, can provide you with extra income.
The welcoming half front door takes you into the hallway where there is a ground floor bedroom to your left and to your right. Further down the hallway to your right leads you into the spacious kitchen/dining area perfect for family life and entertaining, with plenty of storage space, a Stanley range cooker set into a gorgeous cream brick inglenook with an added feature of a back boiler that heats the water and radiators.
There is an office/media room off the kitchen which every house needs nowadays, as today’s family spends more and more time on the web.
Double doors open to the large tastefully decorated sitting room with a feature fireplace and a solid fuel stove. The den area is filled with natural light with plenty of windows and patio doors opening onto the garden and patio area. Also on this floor is a guest toilet.
Upstairs on the first floor is the spacious landing with built-in storage cupboards and leading to four fine bedrooms and the main bathroom. Another bonus to this beautiful home is the installation of a convenient central vacuum system which is known for its removal of allergens and dust when cleaning and not having to drag a vacuum from room to room!
The asking price is €495,000. For further information or to arrange a viewing, contact DNG Brian MacMahon on 091 638638.