Tipperary man (79) thought his community hero award was ‘a set-up’

Séamus O’Doherty says kindness of childhood neighbours sparked his desire to help

Séamus O’Doherty (79)

Séamus O’Doherty (79)

 

Asked what makes a ‘community hero of the year’ the Tipperary man bestowed with the 2021 accolade admits: “I don’t really know”.

Séamus O’Doherty (79) is president of Clonmel’s Hillview sports club but has been so much more to the town for over 40 years. As well as being involved in the GAA, the Red Cross and coaching children and people with disabilities in numerous sports, he has helped run childcare facilities, the local credit union and accommodation for refugees.

He helps with the Muslim community’s annual Eid festival and during the pandemic hosted a weekly bingo tournament online.

Last week he heard he had been nominated for the annual community hero award, presented by the Wheel organisation – a national network of community and voluntary organisations – to someone who has made an extraordinary contribution to their community throughout their lifetime

When told he had won he thought he had been “set up” by one of his daughters, and still can’t quite believe it.

‘Tough years’

His only regret, he says – his voice faltering for a moment – is: “If only my mam and dad were here to see this.

“They died in 1996 and 1997. They had very tough early years,” he says. “My father was a quartermaster sergeant during World War II, in the 13th battalion. When the war was over, things weren’t great for work, as you can imagine. He got £60 when the battalion disbanded and that was it. He got odd jobs here and there.

“We were living in one room in a house on Blind Street in Cahir. There was no electricity, no water, no heating. My mother cooked on a primus stove. It wasn’t pure dire hardship but there were no luxuries.

“The thing I remember was the kindness of our neighbours. I remember women like Mrs Halpin, going into her house, and it was always nice and warm. There was Mrs Donohoe, Mrs O’Regan. They were aware of our circumstances without saying anything about it. Even as children, we all supported each other in our disappointments.

“I think that was where I got this instinct for the bigger project, being hands-on and getting on with it. There’s nothing that makes me happier than helping other people.”