Wicklow saddened as elderly local couple found dead in their home


THE people of Newtownmountkennedy, Co Wicklow, were shocked and saddened yesterday by the deaths of Mr Thomsie O'Connor (89), and his wife Patricia (74), who were found dead in their home on Monday evening.

A Garda spokeswoman said they thought the deaths were due to natural causes. The results of post-mortems carried out yesterday were not released.

Mr O'Connor, a blacksmith, was one of the best-known people in Co Wicklow. He had been in Croke Park on Bloody Sunday and was often interviewed on radio by Gay Byrne, Pat Kenny, Marion Finucane. His comments featured regularly in the local newspaper. A fount of information, Mr O'Connor had a phenomenal memory.

A friend of RTE's Donncha O Dulaing, he appeared on Highways and Byways a number of times and also took part in many walks for charity. His last public campaign was Save Delgany Village, to save the village in which he was born from developers.

As a result of his fundraising and community activities, he was made "Lord Mayor" of Newtown, Rathnew, Newcastle and Enniskerry.

A great lover of nature, he spent a lot of time walking the hills and woods, ferreting for rabbits and collecting bits of wood which he then sold.

He rarely missed a football or hurling final in Croke Park. His little cottage always flew a flag on All-Ireland day and he had a flag for every county.

Mrs Ann Duffy, a neighbour who runs a flower shop, said: "It is the end of an era; he was a great character. He had audience tickets for Questions and Answers on Monday night, but he said he would not go because he wanted to attend the local GAA club's draw for a car. He hated to miss any big occasion.

"He was a very strong man for his age and like all blacksmiths had very big hands. He once told me that his father, also a blacksmith, and himself used to shoe horses for the Black and Tans. In recent years he used to make money from selling rabbits. I'll have to look after his ferret now. He had about eight or to cats. He used to have five dogs.

"He was a great talker, quick with the words. He could tell marvellous stories. Sometimes he would make them up. He once told me he should get a leather medal for telling lies. He loved an audience.

His wife, Patricia, was from Galway. They married late in life - about 30 years ago - and had no children. She had been ill since February. One of the theories about their deaths is that she died and he suffered a heart attack.

Mrs Maisie Clancy, a neighbour, raised the alarm. She thought it strange that the cats were outside the house when they were usually kept indoors. There was no reply when she knocked.

Mr Robert Nolan, who runs the nearby post office, said: "At the draw for the car we had a minute's silence in their memory and we cancelled the music. He was a great man for the outdoors, with his ferret and rabbits. He came into this shop with the ferret and terrified the life out of everyone."