Remembering the late Brendan Reilly from Tierworker
It iswith regret that we note the death of Brendan Reilly, treasured husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather, who passed away at the age of 85 years on October 4 last.
The sixth of ten children, Brendan was born on April 24, 1935, to Jimmy and Sue Reilly at Coppenagh, Tierworker. While still young, the family moved to Glanadara from where he and his siblings - Phil, Mary, Sue, Gerry, Kevin, Rita, Tommy, John and Vincent - walked, along with the neighbours, bare footed to Edengully National School, the local “high school” on the side of the Lough an Lae mountain.
At 16, Brendan started his working life as a shop boy in Pat Brady’s in Bailieborough and, after attending night classes in the local Tech, he went to work a shop assistant in Lynch’s in Ballybay. Like some many of his generation, he emigrated to London at the age of 18 and began working on the buildings. His talents however saw him excel in other areas including barman, breadman and vacuum cleaner salesman.
He met his wife-to-be, Kate, in London on St Patrick’s night at a dance in Kilburn and the couple later married in Roscommon in 1959. On a visit home in 1960, he saw that the local shop at Tierworker was for sale. He and Kate bought it and started a business that would come to be known far and wide.
The young couple moved back to Cavan from London along with their baby son, Seamus. To say it was a culture shock would be putting it mildly. Unlike London, their new home lacked electricity, running water, or a gas cooker.
Determined to make a success of their move back to Ireland, they quickly set about building up the business and developing the grocery shop and bar. Back then every bottle of porter had to be washed, bottled, capped and labelled on a weekly basis and, in the grocery shop, every pound of tea and sugar had to be weighed and bagged as did every bag of coal.
While this work was laborious, it passed the evenings for many local teenagers employed by Brendan and Kate and the craic was always good. Always the entrepreneur, Brendan tried many things and at one stage Reillys of Tierworker were agents for eggs, blackberries and frogs.
Over the following years, they welcomed six more children into their family: Pauric, Bernadette, Maura, Carmel, Oliver and Brendan.
In 1976, Brendan and Kate opened the Royal Breffni Lounge, where crowds danced the night away to live music every week. The premises became a popular spot and, over the years, hosted several popular music acts like the Dubliners, The Wolfe Tones and The Bards to name but a few.
Always able to adapt and diversify, Brendan developed the old festival field behind the premises into a stock car racing track, bringing a sort-of Formula 1 to Tierworker. When, some years later, stock car racing had run its course, he again diversified by converting the racing track into an 18-hole pitch and putt course and was soon hosting day-tripping groups from all over the country.
In a less connected age, the Royal Breffni was a focal point for news and meeting neighbours and was the beating heart of a rural community. Community was always something that was important to Brendan and he supported many initiatives down through the years.
While Brendan and Kate retired from the business in 1996, Brendan didn’t retire from trading. He kept up the buying and selling, but instead of selling pints and half ones, he was trading in cattle in the sales yards of Carnaross, Kingscourt and Ballyjamesduff.
Farming had always been an integral part of Brendan’s life and he was in his element dealing in donkeys at Muff Fair or in Kildare selling pure bred Charolais in Goff’s. Brendan always kept an open door and a welcome for everyone, and like when he was in business, he was happiest when the house was full, be it with his extended family, friends and ceilers.
Throughout his life, Brendan loved people and was a prolific storyteller. He could entertain for hours with stories of people and events long past. An avid sports fan, he loved to watch or listen to county or club football matches and could spend hours discussing it with anybody who shared his passion. The highlight of his year was the All-Ireland football final and was always in his element chasing tickets for the glorious game.
Brendan will be long remembered by many for his warmth, generosity and kindness, for his vision, his good humour and quick wit, for his wealth of stories and yarns and for his ability to strike a bargain.
Notwithstanding all his business success, Brendan was most proud of all of his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.
His loss is felt most of all by his wife Kate, his children and their families, his sisters Sue (Reilly), Rita (Lynch), his brother Vincent and the community at large.
May he rest in peace.