John was at the heart of everything good about Dunboyne

Where do nicknames originate? Every town, village and city in the country has them to identify characters of note in the locality. If the individual or their kinfolk are long enough established or well enough known in an area, it becomes the case that they become more recognisable by their ‘other’ title than their Christian one.

Or maybe Dunboyne is just the world’s capital for that phenomenon. There are are individuals in the old home town who, if asked for by their proper title, nobody would know who you were talking about.

If you’re either new to the place or hadn’t your full wits about you when younger, it would be quite easy to get caught out unable to identify someone of particular local repute. Or maybe that was just me.

Today, one particular instance during which I was found badly wanting comes back to mind. It was in the summer of 1996, the senior football team were playing a match up in the field and all through the game locals were saying “Bergin” this or “Bergin” that.

So I went home and said to da “The seniors had some new fella called Bergin playing centre back tonight”. At which he began laughing, he says “Ah, they must call Vinny Maguire ‘Bergin’ as well. John is known as ‘Bergin’!

To this day, I have no idea where the affectionate name came from, but that mystery will probably be solved once this piece is published. Last evening, an era ended in our village, a chapter in our history closed. John went peacefully to the great field beyond. Weeks shy of his 89th birthday.

Our town mourns the loss of one of its elders. A man who stood with and helped out so many in so many different ways, for generations. Today we stand with and are here for his family in their time of loss and sadness. I cannot remember a time when John Maguire wasn’t part of my life. Yet I feel wholly unqualified to pay tribute to him.

The Maguire family go back that far in the history of Dunboyne it’s doubtful the late Kenny brothers, Denis and Mick, or their committee on the Old Dunboyne Society, got to the bottom of it when compiling their two-volume history of the parish – Dunboyne, Clonee and Kilbride – A Picture Of The Past and the Dunboyne Historical Journal.

John Maguire (1933-2022)

However, contained therein were the lyrics to what I think was a ballad, penned by Willie Lynskey, in homage to a Baytown Minor football team of the late 1940s in which the “Bould Bergin” gets a verse all to himself. In the fullness of time somebody more qualified than I could and should write a book about the man, his contribution to our community and that of his extended family.

For as long as health would allow, John was a regular caller to our house. Both in house role as the local County Council ‘water man’ – checking for leaks, low pressure and outages – and as a life long friend to my late father and, by extension, all of us. The ‘water’ calls are treasured memories which will now command an even more special place with me.

It was a different world then. Maybe a better one. The ‘work’ would take about five minutes and the real business would begin. Pint bottles of stout would appear, thus cattle would be reared, bought and sold, matches – both current and bygone – played and replayed and the politics of the day thrashed out. Always with a lovely green hue, of course!

The photo above shows John doing a reading at the Centenary commemoration of the 1916 Rising in Dunboyne but, as hinted at earlier, the history of the Maguire family in the area goes back a lot further than that. So far, in fact, that it is known there’s a photograph of John in some the local historical documentation published with a pike which has seemingly been in the family since the time of the 1798 Rebellion.

In sporting terms, he and his own offspring are also assured of places in the annals chronicling heroic deeds. His son Vinny followed in those biggest of footsteps as a gifted dual player for our club while the latter also represented the county with distinction in both codes, collecting All Ireland medals in both.

Along with his brother, Seamus, when his playing days ended, Vinny turned his hand to coaching teams in hurling, football and camogie. The last-named contribution coming about as a continuation of a venerable family tradition. John’s daughters – Dolores, Marie and Edel – all had successful careers as players and then imparted the experience to up and coming generations.

Regrettably on my part, not a lot is known about John’s playing career, though I know he was a pivotal member of our team which defeated St Vincent’s in the Feis Cup Final of 1958. They had been beaten by Skryne in an SFC semi final three years prior to that. With ‘Bergin’ now having gone to join so many club legends in the field far away, the engraved replica of the Feis Cup bequeathed to me upon the death of Tom Yourell now takes on even greater poignant significance.

Seamus and John side by side leading the local GAA floats in the first ever Dunboyne St Patrick’s Parade in 2013.

While John’s playing career was before my time, once my own involvement in the club got going, meetings with John and his wife Margaret became regular and wonderful. Simply because there never seemed to be a match in any code at any grade that they weren’t at.

Which leads me to another memory. Myself and Vinny worked together for a few years – along with Vinny’s brother-in-law Ray Mitchell with the club’s third football team. It was actualy around the time Vinny and his now wife Caroline were getting married. Da and I went out to John and Margaret’s home to deliver a gift.

Now, I shouldn’t have been surprised, but, when John brought da in “For a minute”, suffice to say the minute was multiplied by at least 60. All the while they never managed to tell Margaret I was out in the van with only their gorgeous spanial Penny for company. Whether the two men forgot I was out there too could never be confirmed!

For years thereafter, they both asked me to come out when Seamus was doing their own silage. I never did make it, yet, maybe now in John’s memory.

You know, it’s funny the way the wheels of life turn. Just as John and da were great friends, so too have Seamus, in particular, and I become as such. For as long as I’ve been interested in or involved around farming – which is basically as long as I’ve had a pulse – Seamus and his employer Larry Hogarty have always been a big part of that.

My earliest memories of crossing paths with them revolved around either hedge cutting or when they were making hay for our former Parish Priest, Fr Ned Rispin. Back then, Margaret was also renowned as a rearer of calves.

Nearly 30 years on, fate had it that when, with the assistance of my brother Paul, for all too short a time, I was able to live my lifelong dream of actually being a farmer in my own right, things went full circle.

Blessedly, an intrinsic and invaluable part of the farming community is neghbours helping one another. You see, in farming terms – or anything to do with country life – the term ‘neighbour’ has nothing to do with geography.

It’s often who can come to your aid the fastest, who has the required piece of machinery or manpower available. One good turn will be returned with another. For example, not all that long ago, one tillage man not that far away was short of a roller at sowing time. So it went that when dung spreading season came around, he who had lent the roller needed a hand at that task was needed, an extra tractor and spreader arrived in from the opposite direction.

In our case, exactly as it has always been the case with the Clarke family or indeed any member of the local agricultural community – whether it was getting actually contract work done or borrowing a trailer or bale lifter or whatever piece of equipment it might be, Seamus and Larry would always go out of their way to help.

And one day, when John, Vinny and Seamus were in bother with a troublesome bullock, it was actuwlly Paul who came to their aid. At the time he was working with a company which specialised in casualty cattle.

Just as with the delivery of the wedding present, though the ‘job’ only took minutes, John and Margaret would have it no other way than to bring Paul in for tea.

With circumstances having changed my ‘relationship’with farming, I almost feel like an imposter talking about it. Yet just like da with John, whenever Seamus drops in, farming is quite often the only item on the agenda. Keeping the eternal flame burning for me.

Just as the legacy of his late father will live on in this place forever. John Maguire was at the centre of everything good about Dunboyne. We, as a community, mourn his loss but are blessed to have crossed paths with him.

Sleep well Bergin, you’ve busy days ahead up there with da and Jim Reilly and ‘Pop’ Clynch and Lord knows who else around the ring in the mart above. Pick a good bunch between ye. – BB.

7 thoughts on “John was at the heart of everything good about Dunboyne

  1. Beautiful words and very true Ben
    Rest in Peace John
    Sorry I won’t make the funeral I’m away at moment

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