Whenever I think back over my childhood and formative years, I’ll always be grateful for the incredible love that permeated my life. That’s because of you, Dad. Both you and Mum created an atmosphere where Vanessa and I always felt safe, appreciated and allowed us to unapologetically be ourselves. If we ever wanted to dress up and perform a Point Depot-worthy Steps concert in the sitting room, you’d be there, front row cheering us on. I know that you’ve always wanted the best for us, and I can’t thank you enough for never questioning our paths – as you and mum said, ‘If you’re happy, then go for it’.
I’ll forever be grateful for everything you did to provide for us. We never wanted for anything growing up, and the hours that you stood on your two feet behind a bar so Vanessa and I could go to singing and drama classes and feel the transformative power of creativity is a testament to you. Even when you had to work until 2:30am, you would never complain. Of course, that’s you to a tee. When anyone realises that Jim the barman is my wonderful father, they immediately tell me that you are, and I quote, ‘Gentleman Jim’.
So Dad, all I can say is thank you. Thank you for being the perfect example of patience – particularly when you’re in a family with some rather loud individuals like Vanessa, Fron and I. Thank you for coming to every play and concert. Thank you for allowing me to dress you up like Dot Cotton for yet another Eastenders tribute. Thank you for being the best husband in the world to Mum. Thank you for never questioning who I am and for forever championing me. Thank you for being you.
Love, James x
Seeing as the world has been forced indoors recently, I've had to put the brakes on all my travel plans. However, every time I’ve passed through an airport since Christmas 2015, I've thought of you.
Do you remember - in my excitement to return home to Navan from filming in Connemara four years ago, I realised too late that I'd forgotten my passport; problematic considering I'd had a flight from Dublin to Rome scheduled for St. Stephen’s night.
Unable to drive myself, and without public transport at my disposal owing to the festive season, I conceded that the little burgundy booklet would have to remain in Spiddal, leaving me grounded in Ireland.
Ill-prepared to see your youngest child cancel his trip, you immediately grabbed the car keys, sacrificing your St. Stephen's Day lunch, and, together, we crisscrossed the country to reclaim the accursed passport.
Over the six-hour journey you recalled some highlights of your life.
You proudly described coming second in a singing competition despite there being just two contestants. You described the bemused look on Mammy’s face after you'd ordered yourself a pint of milk on your first date with her.
Your storytelling ability, nurtured in your beloved County Clare from an early age, has always been second to none.
Passport retrieved, we later refuelled in Athlone’s Hodson Bay Hotel. As you ordered jelly and ice-cream, I remembered how blessed I’d been that, years earlier, the specialist’s grim prognosis that you ‘might not make the night’ after being rushed to the ICU ward with pneumonia had proved unfounded.
And I hope you've many more years left to enjoy la dolce vita - an expression I frequently heard on that Italian trip you made happen.
Just a quick note to say sorry and thanks. Sorry your new car door was scraped all those years ago at the exact same time I was learning to drive. I know I said I only had a vague idea what happened during your investigation. In hindsight it seems unlikely your wing mirror had been kicked off by a small donkey or that said donkey had been seen in the area specifically targeting other blue Ford Orions. So, sorry.
More importantly, thanks for teaching me so much. I don't mean that saccharine Waltons ‘Let's go fishing John Boy and bond over our shared love of capturing trout’ style of teaching. No, you unwittingly chose that difficult but more effective pedagogical method: example. Teaching by being that rarest of creatures - a good man. Your quiet generosity, honesty and fundamental decency were the constants, as ever-present as your tobacco pipe.
We all know what you did for us growing up and continue to do now. For every hour worked, for every mile driven, for every meal made - thank you. You and I both know that when we meet again in person, we will look into each other’s eyes and never mention this missive for fear of actually dying of embarrassment. That is fine. But it still needs to be said, Thanks Da, Neil.
P.S. I also broke a statue from our Christmas crib when I was seven. Sorry. I improvised a replacement but I think you knew. The wise men were not Balthasar, Melchior and He-Man.
My childhood is full of happy memories with you centre-stage. Watching you hurl with the Fr. Murphy’s, listening to you tell tall stories and sing Do you Want Your Aul Lobby Washed Down, the sound of your laughter with you in the middle of shenanigans, always up for the craic, chasing your dreams, because this time next year, we’ll all be millionaires Rodney.
It’s hard to pick a favourite moment, because the quiet ones walking on Curracloe beach holding your hand as a small child, are as precious as the ones that made me laugh till my belly hurt. Remember when you arrived home with a Shetland pony sitting in the back seat of your car, telling mum that it could live in our back garden? Or the time you made us four kids feel like rockstars, when you arrived at our school gates in an ice-cream van, giving free cones to our classmates. You were the first storyteller in my life dad, never letting the truth get in the way of a good story. Alongside your long skinny legs, I reckon I inherited your imagination, so I guess I should thank you for that.
As I grew up, your wisdom helped me out of a sticky situation on more than one occasion. Some of my favourite Dad pearls include - ‘Never trust a man who doesn’t have any long-term friends’, ‘Every day is a school day’ and “If you can’t keep a secret that’s special to you, how can you expect anyone else to keep it for you?’. Yep, all kinds of wise.
Watching your relationship with all your seven grandchildren, including my two, Amelia and Nate, is something that gives me inordinate joy. When they climb on top of you, pull your hair, pinch your cheeks, shower you with kisses, as they tell you their long-winded stories, your arms are open wide to hold them close. They adore you and you’ve earned every bit of that love.
It’s hard right now, not being able to hug you, but I’ve a lifetime of memories to hold onto until we get to the other side of this.
Happy Father’s Day, my one-of-a-kind, irreplaceable Dad,
Dear Dad, I just wanted to wish you a very Happy Father’s Day and to let you know how much you mean to me.
Without you I would never be where I am today. Before I could talk you introduced me to my first pony, before I could walk you taught me how to ride and to this day you have taught me all I know about horses.
From the first pony I had to the first phone call I make after my rides, from my first ever winner in Newton Abbott to my biggest winner at the Cheltenham Festival, you are always there by my side. From my first ever show in lead rein, to my first ever ride on the racetrack, you were there for me.
Through the tough times and the good times, you are always there to put a smile on my face. You inspired me to follow my dreams and seeing you proud of me is what makes me smile inside.
I can’t thank you enough for all your support and advice throughout the years. I can’t thank you enough for guiding me in the right direction and I can’t thank you enough for passing on your sense of humour and your stubbornness to me too.
I don’t get enough chances to thank you, so on this special day, I want you to know how much I appreciate you and how lucky I am to have you in my life.
Thank you for being my rock,
Lots of love,
Dear Dad, I’d love to know how you are. I hope you are living your best ‘life’. How is it up there? Is it all it’s cracked up to be?
I can just see you now, sitting back in the sun, donning your panama, next to the ocean, drinking G&Ts - big on the G, splash of the T, bags of ice and a lemon slice.
Thank you for being the most incredibly loving father to me. Not a day went by without being told of your love. I remember, only a few years ago, asking why you were so affectionate and tactile. I was curious as it was very unlike men of your generation, unlike many other Irish fathers.
You explained to me that this was the way that your father had been and you knew no other. You had extremely expressive love not just for your family but for all beauty in nature, the arts and the world around you.
You always adored going for a drive together or delivering us to our desired social event. I smile wide at the memories of your hand coming around the back of your car seat for a squeeze of mine as you drove. My friend reminded me of the time three lucky ones and I got a lift across the city to Wesley stadium for a disco, aged 15. You insisted on taking a detour as you had to show the girls your favourite tree on the southside of Dublin. No doubt eyes rolled with the delay as we were dying for our naggins and the chance of a fella.
Your appreciation and love for good food and travel was very much passed down to me. Famous for your one-liners, a personal favourite being ‘Jaypers Mary, If you got this in a restaurant, you’d be doing your nut’. Every single time it was said, which was on the regular, Mom would be elated, giggle and act like it had never been heard before. I love to cook for others so much, in hope the appreciation of the recipient would be a patch on yours.
I adored your charisma, kindness and puns. I particularly loved that you were Mr. Gratitude before it was even considered cool. I wonder what you would make of all this? Routinely washing hands was one of your things though so you’d be thrilled it was now drummed (sorry had to do it) into everyone’s daily agenda.
I will always cherish your abundant love and thank you for teaching me how to do it.
Love always, your middle daughter, Erica.
Dad, my Silent Hero.
Our worlds have parted, and not so long ago.
That light filled autumnal Sunday morning was your time to go.
You slipped away so gently, on to better things.
You’re where you’re meant to be, you found your wings
Loli is terribly sad and grieves for her only love
Watching over us all, from high above
She doesn’t like to talk much but likes it when I do.
She opens up the Jims-Jams pot with your most recent chutney brew.
I visit our home sparingly during these Covid times,
I miss, your humour, your love and rhymes
I miss our Franco fun, and lengthy historic chats
You had such a clever mind and memory so sharp and vast.
Thank you for letting me hold you close, your noble hands so strong and kind,
You opened my eyes to the greater world, a haven to find
I cherish our days in China most, where we learnt a thing or two.
We championed the Chinese Tango and learned to sip green tea, a rosy hue
I remember the jumping prawns, to mark the monkey year,
I felt so proud of you in a world unknown to some,
We were privileged to learn other ways, until our days were done
Dad you were the family glue and kept us all together,
We admired your life long love for Loli, that remains strong forever.
As Father’s Day rolls around again, and I feel the bitter sting
I’m grateful and glad, you were my Dad, My World, my everything
Keep us safe and out of trouble, help me navigate these waters
There’s no greater love, I know for sure
Than that, of Dad and daughter
With love from No 1.
The world has gone crazy as you said it would.