Sunday 18 March 2018

A true gentleman with a great love for people

LEO CARTHY achieved much more in 80 years than most people could ever dream of.

The gentleman from ' Lake View', Our Lady's Island, passed away at Wexford General Hospital in the early hours of Saturday morning, surrounded by his loving family.

An Independent county councillor for 49 years, Leo possessed a seemingly endless reservoir of energy and enthusiasm, which enabled him to lead a long life throughout which he made a huge contribution to his community, county and country.

However, all of Leo's considerable achievements – and there are far too many to mention them all here - were not born as a result of any ambition he harboured, but instead as a result of his great love for people.

Leo loved people and people loved him. It was to form the cornerstone of a remarkable life.

He was many things to many people - friend, councillor, musician, colleague and mentor – but he was always a family man first.

Leo is survived by his loving wife Anne, his children Assumpta, Ger and Seán, his daughterin-law Anne Marie, his grandson Michael, his extended family, the local community in Our Lady's Island and his wide circle of friends.

' To the world he was one person, but to us he was the world,' his son Ger said this week.

Leo and his beloved wife Anne (nee Pettitt, from Moortown, Ballymitty) were devoted to each other, while he was as much a best friend as he was a father to Assumpta, Ger and Seán, of whom he was extremely proud.

One of Leo's last hopes in life was realised on April 7 last when he got to greet his first grandchild, Ger and Anne Marie's son Michael. It was one of his proudest and happiest moments.

Born in Dublin on October 29, 1929, Leo was adopted by a couple living in the capital, but sadly his adopted mother, Kitty Morton (nee Carthy), died just five months later.

Leo was then taken in by her siblings Bill, Nell and Bridie Carthy at the family home in Airdownes, Broadway. They were a family of modest means, but Leo was given a wonderful upbringing in a loving home.

He was educated at the local national school by Mr Hurley, a man he held in great esteem, and after pretending to be older than he was he began working in St Helen's Quarry at a young age.

Leo went on to spend time fishing and working for An Post, delivering post in the Tacumshane area, before he began working with New Ross Mineral Company as a sales rep.

He really enjoyed the job, particularly getting out and talking to people, and was in his element in the role, spending the rest of his working life with the company.

A working man and a devoted family man, Leo was nevertheless a tireless worker for his local community and a proud promoter of all that is good about Irish culture.

He was chairman of the Co Wexford Handball Board during a golden era for the sport here; he coached camogie; he refereed; he played for Our Lady's Island GAA Club, served as chairman of the club and was club president up to the time of his passing.

A hugely talented musician, Leo was a founder member of Comhaltas in Wexford; played the mouth organ, drums, spoons and accordion; was a member of the Mayglass Ceili Band; took part in Tops of the Town; was a founding member of the Carne Mummers, later heavily involved with the Drinagh Mummers and founded the Our Lady's Island Junior Mummers, which all three of his children performed with.

It was as a gifted lilter and mouth organ player he will be best remembered in musical circles. Leo won no less than 13 AllIreland and 60 Leinster medals in Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann competitions for lilting, playing the mouth organ and whistling.

He was also a renowned writer of ballads about local events, from Wexford's hurling heroes to lifeboat rescues. He couldn't read music and did everything by ear.

He performed for Princess Margaret with the Carne Mummers at The Royal Albert Hall in 1960, one of the many highlights of his performing career. He also met Pope John Paul II and American Presidents Dwight D Eisenhower and John F Kennedy.

Leo, who was presented with an honorary doctorate by UCD for his contribution to Irish culture, was involved with almost everything in his local community including the annual pilgrimage, and was always more than willing to help in any way he could.

The Carthy family have joked that Leo was courting Anne for nine years, until their marriage in 1975, because he simply didn't have time to get married!

Leo's deep involvement with his local community led a friend to suggest he should represent his area on Wexford County Council and, after deciding to stand, he was duly elected onto the local authority for the first time in June 1960.

'He lived for the people he represented and was so delighted that they put their faith in him for so many years,' said Ger.

He pointed out that his father was a man of his word. He would always tell someone he would do his best for them, but did not make promises he couldn't keep.

Leo managed to be a shrewd political operator and a strong advocate for those he represented, while at the same time never compromising his honesty and integrity.

He had the greatest respect for his colleagues and the council officials, while they also held him in very high regard. In later years he became a father figure on the local authority and when he stood to speak, everyone listened.

Though he secured almost the exact amount of votes in the last local elections as he had five years earlier, the transfers did not fall favourably for Leo in 2009 and he lost the seat he had held for 49 years on the 13th and final count.

However, he was typically gracious in defeat and did not use his ill health at the time of the election as an excuse. He told the Wexford People at the time that he had enjoyed a long and memorable career and was ' satisfied that I gave 49 years of service to the people of Wexford'.

Ger, on behalf of the Carthy family, extended his sincere thanks to the huge number of people from around Ireland who have sympathised with them on their sad loss in recent days, but particularly their friends and neighbours in Our Lady's Island.

'The amount of support we've had in the last few days has been unbelievable, we'll never be able to thank people for the support they've shown us,' said Ger.

Leo was laid to rest in his beloved Our Lady's Island yesterday (Tuesday). Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

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