A member of a leading political family, also a prominent golfer and golf-course designer, treated rich and poor just the same, mourners at his funeral were told yesterday.
An overflow congregation in St John’s Church, Tralee, Co Kerry, gave a touching farewell to Arthur Spring, 70, who died at his home on Wednesday, having been ill since late last year.
In a tribute, his son, Labour TD Arthur John Spring, said he was a loving, gentlemanly figure who, though not without his faults, loved people.
“By turning out in such large numbers, people of Tralee have shown what a nice man he was… he treated prince and pauper the same,” said Mr Spring.
Mr Spring said that, in addition to doing well in all sports, his father was highly committed to politics — being involved from way back when his father Dan was a TD for north Kerry to the era of his brother Dick, who became tánaiste and Labour leader, and up to last year’s local elections when his son, Graham, was voted onto Kerry County Council.
“When he was in your corner, he was a fighter,” said an emotional Mr Spring who was warmly applauded at the end of the requiem Mass.
His father was not a businessman but a medic who had been known to put his hand in his own pocket to provide needy people with medical care, the Mass heard.
Tánaiste and Labour Party leader Joan Burton and former leader Eamon Gilmore were present.
President Michael D Higgins was represented by Lieutenant Commander Patricia Butler. Taoiseach Enda Kenny by Commandant Kieran Carey.
Gifts that were handed up to symbolise Dr Spring’s life included a harmonica, a hurley, a golf club, and a stethoscope.
Fr Sean Hanafin, chief concelebrant of the Mass with six other priests, said people were deeply saddened by the death of Dr Spring, a considerate man who was widely respected.
In 1963, he won an All-Ireland minor football medal with Kerry. He also played other sports, including hurling and basketball.
Fr Hanafin said he was a big, powerful footballer who controlled the pitch. He later became a prominent golfer and was active in clubs in Tralee, Ballybunion, and Castlegregory After some years spent designing several golf courses around the country, he returned to medical practice in Tralee.
“He was a caring and attentive medic who earned the respect of his patients and his peers. Family was also deeply important to him and it was with great joy he welcomed seven grandchildren,” said Fr Hanafin. “He also had a deep belief in social justice, especially in areas of education and health.”
Dr Spring is survived by his children Graham, Arthur John, and Julianne; his widow Patsy; brothers Dick and Donal, sister Noelle, and partner Caroline.
Tralee Golf Club members formed a guard of honour and Dr Spring was laid to rest in New Rath Cemetery.
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