Lives Lost to Covid-19: Seamus Loughrey, a beloved lollipop man

When he died at 62 tributes poured in from parents and children from the Derry school

Lives Lost: Seamus Loughrey from Derry, 1957-2020

Lives Lost: Seamus Loughrey from Derry, 1957-2020

 

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

Seamus Loughrey

1957-2020

Of all Seamus Loughrey’s jobs, his favourite was as a lollipop man.

Over the years, Seamus had earned a living in different ways – as a salesman, a delivery man, a meter reader and running a market stall, as well as many years as a taxi driver for Foyle Taxis in Derry. But when he applied to become lollipop man at Long Tower Primary School in Derry about 10 years ago, he had found the perfect role.

“I used to sing My Boy Lollipop to him,” says his wife, Myra. “He absolutely loved that job.”

Every morning he would exchange high-fives with the children as they crossed the road on their way to school; while the pupils were learning at home because of Covid-19 he recorded a “virtual hug” for the school to share with its students to support them during lockdown.

When he died of Covid-19 in November, many of the messages of condolences the family received came from the children and their parents. “It was lovely to hear, they were saying so many nice things about him. He meant that much to them,” says Myra.

Originally from the Creggan area of Derry, Seamus was always a hard worker who would have “talked the hind leg off a donkey. He was the kind of man that it was hard to get him to slow down”.

He had a great sense of humour, recalls his son David, and was “always up for a laugh and a joke and a carry-on”.

“He would laugh at the silliest things. He always said his favourite comedian was Tommy Cooper. ”

He was also kind-hearted; for all his complaints about the family dog – a present for Myra’s 60th birthday – “every time you looked he would be petting it and playing with it”.

But Seamus was not always talkative. David describes how the family only found out much later that during his time as a taxi driver, Seamus had stopped to help a man on the Foyle Bridge who was about to take his own life.

“He didn’t even tell us at the time,” says David. “We only found out because another taxi man who had done the same was in the paper, and we were saying how awful it must have been for the driver.

“He said, ‘sure I did that myself one night’, and we were so taken aback.”

“He was old-fashioned like that,” adds Myra. “I said, ‘why didn’t you come here and have a cup of tea and talk about it’,” but he wasn’t the kind who would have talked about it.

“He was always very private, didn’t want praise, didn’t want fuss.”

Myra met Seamus when she was 18, but the pair didn’t start dating until she was 30. “I would have been out with my friends and my sisters and he would have been out with his friends, but he always would have met up with me at the end of the night. I used to be chuffed to bits to see him.”

Seamus and Myra had been due to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary in May and were planning a big celebration. He contracted Covid-19 and died a month before his 63 birthday, which he would have celebrated on Christmas Day.

His family had to say goodbye to Seamus over FaceTime; David recalls going to Altnagelvin hospital in Derry to collect his father’s effects after he had died and meeting two of the nurses who had cared for him. They were in tears, and he could see the marks left by a mask on one of the nurse’s faces.

“She had been caring for my father all day and it really showed the effect has on them too, they were exhausted. It’s incredible what they’re doing ... I can’t thank the doctors and nurses enough.”

This year, the Loughrey family went to the cemetery on Christmas Day. “We just took a balloon that said, ‘happy birthday’ and tied it on,” says Myra.

David looks back fondly on his parents’ last summer together, when the lockdown restrictions had been eased. “We made brilliant memories ... because of the bright weather they were able to sit out our front, and the neighbours sat out their front, and he sat and had a beer and Mum had a glass of wine and they would have chatted, and it was their own wee social thing. They had the best of craic over the summer.”

Seamus is survived by his wife Myra and sons David, Jason and Chris.

FREYA McCLEMENTS