Monday 16 September 2019

Sadness throughout county at death of musician Tommy (86)

PEOPLE in Piercestown and throughout Co. Wexford were saddened by the recent death of renowned traditional musician and character Tommy Hayes (86).

He was born in Piercestown, the eldest son of Paddy Hayes, Murrintown, and Mary 'Polly' O'Brien from Walshestown.

Tommy has two brothers, Seán (Liverpool) and Pat, formerly of London and now living in Leitrim, a winner of the All-Ireland and All-England Accordion and Concertina.

He attended Piercestown National School, where he had a great grasp of the Irish language and also excelled at maths. Right up until his recent death Tommy could add a full column of figures in seconds without the aid of calculator.

Tommy started work at a very young age at Claude Francis's farm in Rathjarney, where he worked for 29 years, with three of those spent on the Saltee Islands, which were owned by Mr Francis at that time.

Tommy regularly entertained on the island during the week and he also travelled into Kilmore Quay for supplies on a weekly basis and played in The Wooden House pub in the village. He was affectionately known as 'Ginger' at the time due to his 'auburn locks'!

He then moved to An Foras Taluntas (Teagasc) at Johnstown Castle to work, where he worked the soil plots and maintenance, before he took early retirement at the age of 63. Tommy made many good friends during his working life, which was evident at his wake at his home and his funeral last week.

Tommy married the late Clare (neé Murphy, of Kilmacree) on January 17, 1950, and they lived there first in Kilmacree, then moving to Rathjarney, where they lived for eight years, before they moved to their bungalow in Piercestown.

Tommy and Clare had four children: Ann (Rochford), Paddy, Toddy and Jimmy. They also enjoyed the company of their nine grandchildren and their late great grandchild Trish (17), who sadly died in 1997.

Tommy enjoyed sports of all kinds. He played hurling and football for St Martin's GAA Club from 1938 to 1963 and was a member of the renowned 1948 team who won the county junior hurling title against Tara Rocks from Gorey.

He played on the senior team of 1953, which held the great St Aidan's team of Enniscorthy to a famous draw. It was one of many memorable games in which Tommy – who was known as ' The Whippet' – represented St Martin's, many of them against their great rivals St Fintan's.

Tommy followed the fortunes of the St Martin's and Wexford teams until recent times. During their courting years, Tommy and Clare would cycle with others to Kilkenny and Croke Park to watch Wexford play.

As the years progressed they had the good fortune of lifts from people who had by that stage become affluent and owned a car, van or motorbike! He was a faithful Gael who was proud of his heritage, his history and, most of all, proud to be Irish.

Tommy enjoyed shooting and was out at the crack of dawn on November 1 each year for the pheasant season, joining the late Dr Herbert Walker, Mick Goodwin, his sons Paddy and Jim and others on the banks of the ponds all around Barony and Forth. He would often stay out till 10 or 11 p.m. shooting ducks for a good haul.

In recent years, while still in good health, Paddy, Jim and himself continued their interest in shooting from November each year and the delicacies of pheasant and duck were very plentiful in the Hayes household through the years and many other households around too whenever they had a good shoot. It is told that he often floated on stacks of corn on the Sloblands while lying in wait for the ducks.

He also had a great love of racing and would travel to many meets, including Tramore, Punchestown, Gowran Park and Leopardstown, with his racing pals the late Paddy Murphy, Tomhaggard, Nick Pettit, Vin Kelly and the late Robert Morris.

When he was unable to travel anymore, Tommy and his son Toddy would spend the afternoons at the house watching, shouting and swearing at the horses of the day. He always had a bet on every day, which was a great interest to him and if confined to bed at any time he'd have the horses to keep him occupied for the day.

Tommy also fished the coastline from Carne to Fethard and on rivers from Castlebridge to Haresmead. He was often seen very late at night knocking on doors around Piercestown and other parts of the parish handing in dozens of mackerel when the catch was particularly good.

He was renowned for his card playing and in their early married life both Tommy and Clare had 'card nights' every other Friday at their home. Good Friday night was a special game night and they travelled to join other card 'sharks' when games went on till dawn.

Tommy continued to play cards three nights a week right up until the middle of November 2010, when his health greatly deteriorated.

Tommy's greatest love, despite his many passions, was probably music. He played for dancers, mummers, céilís, in local halls, at birthday parties, houses and wedding receptions. Whatever the occasion, Tommy was there to give of his talent and time.

He had the great privilege of playing in the Royal Albert Hall with the Carne Mummers in the Sixties and he also played with the Dungeer Mummers in the Welsh Eisteddfod in Llangollen in north Wales.

He played in a few Fleadh Ceol competitions, but he preferred to go along to a 'seisúin' where anyone there who could sing or play an instrument would be invited to 'do a turn'.

Tommy also played with the Tagoat Mummers in An Tostal in 1955. He travelled with his brother-in-law the late Mikie Murphy, his daughter Ann, and Michael Murphy Jnr to see the Dublin City Ramblers in the Hideout in Tomhaggard, and after their performance they stayed the night with the proprietor.

Of course, Tommy just happened to have the accordion in the car, so he joined them in the kitchen for a cup of tea, a few sandwiches, a couple of pints and, eventually, breakfast! They arrived back in Piercestown at 7 a.m.

Tommy's health deteriorated a couple of years ago and his mobility became very limited. He had many scares during that period, but a stroke in mid-November really saw his health go downhill quickly. He was admitted to hospital on December 11 and passed away peacefully there on Monday, January 10.

Tommy had the great privilege of meeting his great grandson Ethan in June of last year, then aged five months old.

His Requiem Mass was celebrated in St Martin's Church, Piercestown, last Thursday. Tommy was laid to rest in Piercestown Cemetery. May his gentle soul rest in peace.

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