Popular bachelor was part of a vanishing Ireland


JOHNNY GOLDEN:JOHNNY “GOULDIE” Golden of Doogarry, Killeshandra, Co Cavan, who died last year aged 73, was part of a traditional Ireland that has largely disappeared. He featured in the book and website Vanishing Ireland.

Gouldie was a typical Irish bachelor of the older generation. He lived by himself in a small, local authority pre-fabricated dwelling in the countryside. A gifted traditional musician, he was able to produce a tune from a fiddle, tin whistle or flute. He was a fine traditional singer and a noted step dancer.

Besides music, his other big passion was vintage tractors. He could find the rusted hulk of an old tractor and fix it up so it was roadworthy. He enjoyed working at anything mechanical and his talents extended to photography.

His means of transport was an old Honda 70 motorbike. Usually the grime of some machinery he was working on protected him from the elements.

In personality, he was a typical bachelor of his generation. His tipple of choice was a bottle of Guinness. He was quiet and unassuming, and a good conversationalist – but only joined the conversation when invited in.

He was what an older generation colloquially called a “home boy”. That is, one of the tens of thousands who passed through the Irish care system.

He was born in June 1937. He never knew who his parents were, or the circumstances of his birth. Until he was 13 he was an inmate of the Sunbeam Home in Bray, Co Wicklow. Then Miss Violet Wilson of Carrigallen, Co Leitrim, took him and another boy out of the Sunbeam Home. He worked on farms, in a scrapyard, and as sexton of Killegar Church. At his funeral, Rev Alison Calvin said: “Some might say life dealt Johnny a hard blow, but he didn’t see it that way. There wasn’t a trace of bitterness or self-pity about him.”

He was an active man, used to the outdoor life. His first hospital admission was two years before his death.

A nurse explained they would have to wash him. “Don’t worry, I’ll only wash as far up as possible . . . and I’ll wash as far down as possible,” she told him. “And I’ll wash possible,” Gouldie informed her.

Last September, Gouldie suffered horrific injuries when an intruder or intruders attacked him in his home. He never recovered consciousness.

His coffin was brought the last mile to Killegar church on a trailer towed by his 1951 Ferguson tractor. The funeral was one of the biggest in the area for many years. The Rev Calvin told the mourners: “He may not have known his blood relatives, but he was certainly known and loved by many the length and breadth of the country. It speaks volumes to see so many here today from all over the island of Ireland.”

Johnny Golden: born June 20th, 1937; died October 6th, 2010