Organiser behind the popular crossroads dance at Ughtyneill passes away
Ughtyneill, Moynalty and Charlestown House, Ardee
Tom Marry / Tomás Ó Mearraí of Ughtyneill, Moynalty and Charlestown House, Ardee died peacefully in the presence of his wife of 51 years, Sheila and daughter Eilís in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital Drogheda on Friday, June 19. He is survived by his wife and daughter, sister Sr Teresa, SSL (California) and brother Enda (Spain).
Tom was born in Ughtyneill in 1936 and attended Ughtyneill National School and CBS Kells. He played Gaelic football for several teams including Ughtyneill, St Kieran’s Minors, Moynalty and clubs in Dublin. Tom’s working life began on the family farm and in grocer shops in Ughtyneill and Hogan Place, Dublin. He later opened his own carpet and furniture shops in Dublin, Ughtyneill and Ardee. He also provided rental accommodation there and in Waterford.
Tom became actively involved in the Republican movement at various levels throughout the 1970s. He was the key figure in Moynalty Northern Aid, a committed member of Meath Comhairle Ceantar, Sinn Féin and National Secretary of An Cumann Cabhrach. In 1980/81, Tom took a very active part in organising and speaking at protests throughout the region supporting the demands of the Hunger Strikers. After that era, Tom was not affiliated to any particular group but continued to work for a Gaelic, free and united Ireland.
In 2013 TG4’s Comhrá devoted a programme to interviewing him. On his death, the Ard Comhairle of Republican Sinn Féin paid him a tribute as a ‘stalwart and faithful Republican’.
In 1983, Tom and Sheila were instrumental in founding the Ughtyneill branch of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann and he completed the Dublin City Marathon on ten occasions to raise money to keep this facility going. In 1984, Tom purchased and renovated St Patrick’s Hall, Ughtyneill and founded T.U.N.E. (Top Ughtyneill Non-Alcoholic Entertainment) an organisation that provided alternative entertainment to the pub scene for 21 years. In this way, Tom was giving practical expression to his Christian faith and 70 year membership of the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association. He was one of three finalists in the Meath Personality of the Year in 1991 for his work for T.U.N.E. and for his promotion of the heritage of Ireland.
In 1996, which was the centenary of the first formal céilí, Tom founded Cairde Rince Céilí na hÉireann to promote non-competitive céilí dancing among all age groups throughout Ireland in venues free from alcohol. The annual crossroads céilí at Ughtyneill, of which he was the main organiser for 36 years, gave him particular pride in his native place. From his days at Ughtyneill National School, Tom always had a great love for the Irish language and then attended Hiúdaí Ó Domhnaill’s Irish language, drama and céilí dancing classes. Tom and his wife founded Ciorcal Comhrá Bhaile Átha Fhirdhia where he was always keen to help those less confident in the use of the language.
Tom’s remains reposed at his home on Monday, June 19 and the Aclint branch of Cairde Rince Céilí na hÉireann lined the avenue on his departure. His funeral cortege arrived at St Patrick’s Hall, Ughtyneill where the road was lined with mourners including neighbours and representatives of céilí clubs. Members of the local branch of Cairde Rince Céilí na hÉireann danced at the crossroads and Geraldine Smith played Éamonn an Chnoic on the fiddle.
Private funeral Mass (due to COVID-19 restrictions) was celebrated by Very Rev. Fr. Joe McEvoy in the Church of the Assumption, Moynalty. He described Tom as a man of passion and zeal who gave it his all and held nothing back. His coffin was shouldered by nephews and friends to St Mary’s Cemetery, Moynalty where his daughter Eilís bade farewell with a rendition of Róisín Dubh on the tin whistle.
Sheila and Eilís deeply appreciate the contribution of all those who took part in making Tom’s funeral such a joyful celebration of a life well lived. His month’s mind Mass will be celebrated in the Church of the Assumption, Moynalty on Sunday, July 19 at 12:30pm followed by light refreshments in St Patrick’s Hall, Ughtyneill. “Ní bás ach athfhás”.