Lives Lost to Covid-19: Hugh O’Boyle was a proud engineer and family man

Married to Rita for 64 years, the Skerries man had a life-long love of ships and planes

Lives Lost: Thomas (Hugh) O’Boyle 1927-2021

Lives Lost: Thomas (Hugh) O’Boyle 1927-2021

 

This article is one of a series about people who have died with coronavirus in Ireland and among the diaspora. You can read more of them here. If you would like a friend or family member included in the series, please email liveslost@irishtimes.com

Thomas “Hugh” O’Boyle
1927-2021

Hugh O’Boyle’s work as an aircraft engineer brought him far and wide.

What pleased him most about his travels was heading to a far-off country after his employer Aer Lingus sold a plane and sent him to sign off on a final inspection during the handover.

“My father was responsible for the log and my dad would not put his name on that until he checked every part of it,” says his youngest daughter, Catherine.

The resident of Skerries, north Dublin, got to see the world through his work, travelling to Morocco, Nigeria and Bangladesh.

On days off at home, he loved driving to the back of Dublin Airport with his children and watching the aircraft taking off and landing. He could identify an approaching aircraft long before it came near the airport.

While some plane spotters had a sports match playing on the radio in the background as they watched, Hugh tuned into air traffic control to hear the chatter between the tower and the pilots.

“I remember he once brought in a couple of friends from the street to show the kids around the airplanes. He used to bring home memorabilia from Africa and, for a local publican in Skerries, all different currencies from around the world,” says his daughter.

While he loved planes, Hugh’s first love was ships. He was born in Belfast in 1927 and was one of a handful of Catholics who worked at the city’s famous shipyard Harland & Wolff.

Amid sectarian tensions, an attempt was made on his life when he was a teenager, and his mother told him to leave their Chatham Street home in Belfast. He moved to Dublin and joined the Air Corps as an engineer, rising to the rank of corporal, before heading off into the commercial airline world.

Family man

He met and married Rita in 1956 and together they raised six children, making Skerries their home for almost 50 years. The couple were married 64 years.

“His wife and his family were his hobbies – that was it,” says his daughter Catherine.

They had 21 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren whom he adored.

Hugh O’Boyle died of Covid-19 in Lusk Community Nursing Unit in north Dublin on January 20th.

The vaccine came too late for the 93 year old. He received the first dose on January 11th but he contracted the virus in the following days during an outbreak.

“Once my dad became part of those statistics, it was very hard to watch the Nphet [National Public Health Emergency Team] briefings. It is heartbreaking,” says Catherine.

She misses her father so much it hurts, she says, but she feels Covid-19 saved them the pain of having to watch him deteriorate with Alzheimer’s disease.

“In a way it saved us that horror of going in to see my dad and him not knowing who we were,” she says.

She is effusive in her praise of the nursing home staff in Lusk, where he had lived since November. She singled out the “heartbroken” nurse who had the difficult task of telling each of the family members that the 15 minutes for their final bedside goodbyes were up. Then there was the local priest who gave him the last rites “in full PPE”.

“My dad didn’t suffer. There was no distress. He shouldn’t have died but it wasn’t anybody’s fault,” she says.

“For us, the people around us couldn’t have done anything more than they did. Lusk was just wonderful. They just scooped my daddy up and took care of him.”

Covid-19: Lives Lost

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