Lives Lost to Covid-19: Sean Farrelly was a baker known for warm and generous nature

Bray native’s life revolved around his close and extended family

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.

Sean Farrelly

1944 - 2020

As a well-known baker on the Bray seafront of Co Wicklow, Sean Farrelly would often show up at other local businesses with a tray of complimentary cakes. Years later, as a taxi driver, he would forgo fares for those in need.

Born in 1944 he was raised in the seaside town by his aunt and uncle, Maureen and Kevin Byrne. To his cousins Micheál, Carmel, Colette and Breda he was more of a brother.

He went to Presentation College and later studied hotel management. During a successful early career in hospitality, he became manager of O’Connell Street’s famous Metropole hotel, where he met his future wife, Phyl.

The couple married in 1969 at Newman University Church on St Stephen’s Green but took a circuitous route to opening their well-known Avonree Bakery some years later.

Returning from a spell in England in the early 1970s, the couple first settled in Phyl's hometown of Callan, Co Kilkenny, where they reopened her family business, Dunne's Bakery, where Sean learned his craft.

Entrepreneurial life

In 1976 they moved to Bray and set about an entrepreneurial life. First they ran Sidmonton Stores, operating a small bakery from the back of the shop, and shortly afterwards purchased No 1 Brennan's Terrace on the seafront at the opposite end of the terrace where Sean grew up.

Here, they established the Avonree Bakery in the basement and expanded a business supplying hotels, restaurants and shops across Dublin and Wicklow, while simultaneously running a restaurant and, for a time, a newsagent. Their children Katrina and Jonathan would eventually do their bit making cheesecakes and assembling boxes.

“Stories of Sean’s generosity as a baker to people and organisations abound and are legendary,” Katrina says. “He regularly delivered trays of his trademark donuts or occasion cakes such as Black Forest gateaux to workers in other Bray businesses, especially at Christmas time, as a thank you for their own service.”

When the bakery closed in the early 1990s Sean began to drive a taxi. “He loved chatting to people as he drove them around, hearing of their stories, and often foregoing fares if he felt sorry for anyone in need,” Jonathan says.

“Sean’s life, personal and professional, revolved around family, both his immediate family unit and his extended family on his and his wife’s sides,” says Phyl. “His home was always open to every member of his extended family.”

Sean died in April 2020 at Cairnhill Nursing Home in Bray. He was laid to rest in Redford Cemetery after a private funeral Mass in Queen of Peace Church. His final journey took him past his childhood and family homes on Bray’s Brennan’s Terrace and Putland Road under the watchful eye of friends and family.