Farewell to international neighbour

I was travelling down home on Saturday morning to pay my respects at the funeral of an old family friend who had died suddenly.

I was travelling down home on Saturday morning to pay my respects at the funeral of an old family friend who had died suddenly.

This Sporting Life - Colin Regan

As his name suggests, Eberhard Graff wasn’t a native, but he was as local as you could get. He came to Ireland in the late ‘70s searching amongst the old country houses for forgotten heirlooms and antiques. It was a passion he retained all his days; another was the love he developed for Ireland and especially the northwest.

While it was our old houses and untamed countryside that first attracted Eberhard to this country, it was the people who kept drawing him back. He was a regular visitor to our house, drawn in by the mixture of my father’s wild indigenous ways and my mother’s hospitality (not to mention their incredible collection of collectables – an irresistible lure to Eberhard’s magpie eye). He would become good friends with all our family and many more in and around Kinlough, where he set up home for many years having restored the beautiful old Brookhill house on the outskirts of the village.

He would regularly disappear back to his native Germany, or further afield, wheeling and dealing in old properties and antiquities, but would return, unannounced, taking his place quietly in a pew in the small Protestant Church in Kinlough at Thanksgiving, or at Christmas, or at Easter, or at no time in particular. He’d always have a chest full of new tales – and old – and would be keen to share them in good company with good jest.

My favourite was the one he told when I asked him how he had come to settle in Ireland. He took me back to a scene in a different world: aristocracy Ireland in the 1970s. The old landed gentry were moving out en mass, their once stately homes crumbling around them. It was fertile ground for a dealer in tall tales and antiques.

Eberhard recalled being in one such grand mansion deep in the midlands where he was being hosted late into the night by the gentleman and lady of the manor. They knew their time had come. They could no longer afford the upkeep of their over-sized home, let alone the acres that surrounded it. But they still played the violin as the Titanic went down. As Eberhart put it:

“She was sitting in front of the roaring open fire which was the height of a tall man standing, swilling her vintage ’59 Bordeaux while reciting Keats to no one in particular with her blouse plummeting open to an unladylike depth, while he stood by the large sash window ruminating on the provenance of the luscious velvet curtains as the velvet countryside sank into darkness outside. It was then I knew I would always return to Ireland.”

And return he did, time and again, and once again last weekend on his final journey having died suddenly in his house in Grlitz, Germany, on February 19. He now eternally rests in the quiet grounds of St. Anne’s Church in the picturesque Easkey, where his mother is also buried (they lived in the Old Rectory in the seaside village at one time). The church was built in 1820 and I imagine there’s no shortage of artefacts in and around the grounds to keep Eberhard entertained for many a moon.

On behalf of all the community I extend my sympathies to Eberhart’s son Max and all his family and friends. Ní bheidh a leithéid arís ann.

My mother was unwell last week and over the weekend and was very disappointed she couldn’t make the funeral of her friend. I arose early on Sunday morning to make ready for the trip to Pairc Sean. I had a bowl of porridge, brought in some turf and sticks, tidied up the yard a little, took a walk with the dogs, ate two duck eggs, loaded my car and then prepared for the off. Then I did the opposite to what I had done for years – I chose family over football. If I had a penny for every Sunday dinner I missed due to football I’d be a rich man not to mention a few stone heavier! So I parked up my car and spent a lovely day looking after my Mum; one back for the countless days she has done the same for me.

It was a perfect Sunday with Leitrim’s victory contributing to sense of satisfaction. The reflection time also reminded me to pay testament to those Leitrim footballers of the fairer sex who have been giving their time to the cause, and recording some fine victories in the process. Keep it up lassies.

I’m looking forward to the game in Aughrim on Sunday. In my time as a supporter I think it’s one of the most important games I’ll have witnessed. I’ve got the small matter of a trail half-marathon to get over in the Wicklow mountains on Sunday morning with Gareth Phelan, Matt Connolly, Jimmy D’Arcy, Colin O’Driscoll, and the two Maggies also doing their bit for Debra Ireland. Let’s hope Leitrim run out winners too.