Trusting brothers ‘rarely locked door’

The scene of the double killing of two elderly brothers, Jack and Tom Blaine, at New Antrim St, Castlebar, Co Mayo.

The pair, brutally beaten to death, were described locally as ‘harmless, innocent but a little bit naive’. Picture: Keith Heneghan

By Tom Gillespie Castlebar

The two elderly brothers brutally beaten to death at their home in Castlebar, Co Mayo, in the early hours of yesterday were so trusting they rarely locked their front door, even at nighttime.

“Harmless, innocent but a little bit naive,” was the general consensus locally about the Blaine brothers, Jack, 76, and Tom, 69, who lived in a small, two-storey, house at New Antrim St.

Both men were unmarried, having originally come from a rural district, Crimlin, a village about 5km north of the Mayo county town.

Jack was involved in construction in England up to the 1970s. His working life there came to an end abruptly when a concrete stairwell came tumbling down on top of him.

“He was buried for three or four hours,” his first cousin Paul Dunne recalled yesterday. “It’s probably true to say he never was the same since.”

Jack Blaine was small in stature. His hunched figure was familiar, especially at nighttime, in the Tucker St and Linenhall St areas which are the social hub of Castlebar, especially at weekends.

Most nights, while his younger brother stayed home, Jack would visit local hostelries such as Rocky’s, Sloyan’s or Bosh Bar, mug in hand, hoping for a fill of tea or coffee on the house.

Staff always obliged. In fact, Jack got what turned out to be his last coffee ‘top up’ in Rocky’s around midnight on Tuesday before he shuffled to his home about 50 yards away.

John Ralph, bar manager at Rocky’s, sadly recalled Jack’s last visit. “He was in his usual quiet form. There was never anything loud or demanding about Jack. He was always quiet and gentle.”

Kitty Sloyan, 92, the oldest resident of Linenhall St, insisted: “Jack and Tom were two saints. They never did the slightest harm to anybody.

“When I worked in the bar myself I always gave Jack a glass of Guinness whenever he came in. You wouldn’t see Tom out much, only rarely, in the nighttime.”

Ms Sloyan said the tragedy which had befallen her neighbours was the worst event she remembered happening in the town in her lifetime.

“What happened to Jack and Tom is frightening for everybody, both young and old,” she declared.

Paul Dunne, cousin of the dead brothers, last saw the pair on Monday when he called to their home around 5pm. They were in “good form” at the time.

“I used to keep an eye on them — obviously not a great eye in the light of what has happened,” he added ruefully.

Jack and Tom returned from England in the 1980s to look after their mother, Delia, in her final years. Delia lived in the modest house where the brothers had been living when their lives were violently ended sometime in the early hours of yesterday.

The home-help worker who found the bodies on her rounds at 7am was too shocked to talk.

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