The late Luke Early pictured with his wife Ann.
On Tuesday morning May 9, a dark cloud of sadness descended on South Leitrim as the devastating news broke that Mohill had lost one of her favourite sons, Luke Early, writes John Dugdale.
Luke Early of Main St. Mohill, a well known, highly reputable and universally respected business man in Mohill for many years, had died suddenly after a short illness.
Luke took over the family grocery/bar and undertaking business from his late father in the 1980s and ran a successful enterprise together with his wife Ann for many years until the town traffic realignment forced him to reconfigure and concentrate on the undertaking business which had been established in 1955.
Early's Central Bar enjoyed a pivotal position in Mohill, famous for its location, hospitality and the camaraderie provided by Luke, Ann and the Early family down the years.
While Luke Early was known far and wide, his name was synonymous with basketball from the North West, to the Midlands and North East, nurturing great friendships on and off the court.
Luke attended that great bastion of basketball, St Mel's College Longford where he first learned to play and grew to love the game, enjoying considerable success with college teams.
He was a very formidable player for Mohill Basketball Club for over 20 years being a key member of several successful Cavan League winning teams.
While he was a colossus on the court for numerous club teams in Mohill, he was also an outstanding Officer of the Club for many years. His enduring devotion to basketball remained with him throughout his short life and led him to coach teams of the area with considerable success.
Luke was also an extremely shrewd player -coach when the occasion demanded and a master tactician, with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the game.
He was always a enthusiastic helper, volunteer and tremendous supporter of the Club in the promotion of the game he adored. He was a wonderful ambassador and a marvellous example to all he coached.
While also a generous benefactor with sponsorships, his devotion to the game also inspired his son Paul to become a very accomplished exponent of the game in latter years, which Luke was justly proud of.
He also took enormous pride in his other son Alan's success in the literary and artistic field garnering several awards and distinctions.
However, above all it was Luke's superb sportsmanship and his humility in victory and graciousness in defeat which made this Gentle Giant stand apart.
He played the game fair but hard, competitive as a lion and fearless in the white heat of battle but always within the rules and the spirit of the game. Off the court, his sense of humour, friendliness, conviviality and innate good nature endeared him to all who were fortunate to cross paths.
Luke was also a very accomplished GAA player for Mohill. The highlight was in 1978 when he was the victorious Captain of the Lough Rynn Gaels U21 winning team, having previously been an important member of the '77 winning team.
Luke also was of great assistance to the local GAA Club helping and assisting in many different roles and was a proud father when Paul was part of Mohill's 2006 Senior County Championship winning team.
He also coached at under age level in addition to managing and coaching local school teams for several years.
Luke was also a proficient badminton player being a key member of Breffni and Leitrim league winning teams. Luke had a favourite battle cry on the court when the shuttle was high in the air on his side of the net awaiting a smash and when he called it you knew invariably the rally would came to an abrupt conclusion.
The multi-talented man also played soccer for Mohill Town being a very decent left back on many teams.
Luke's interest in soccer started in the 70s with the evolution of a Mohill Town league and Luke was one of the founders of the legendary Green Rovers team at the time.
He was also a key member of a Mohill Festival-5-aside winning team in 1986. His unequivocal loyalty and support of Arsenal Football Club provoked many passionate debates and banter about English Soccer Clubs.
Luke's admiration never wavered and he followed the “Gunners" through thick and thin, travelling to Highbury, the Emirates and Wembley to see his beloved Arsenal in action.
It was indeed poignant and heart wrenching to see his beloved Arsenal cap placed beside him in death as in life.
Luke, a true Mohillian was also involved for a long number of years in many local organisations including The Show Committee, The Boy Scouts, The Sweet Gospel Choir, The Percy French Society, The Sliabh an Iarainn Players, Mohill Festivals, St Patrick's Day Parades, The Special Olympics and The FCA.
Luke always had a natural interest in sport and had the distinction of completing Dublin City Marathons while in later years he was a familiar cyclist on the highways and byways around Mohill.
Luke and his devoted wife and best friend Ann were inseparable they were frequent walkers together in the sylvan surroundings of Lough Rynn Estate.
They were both members of local choirs and regularly where you met one the other was close by.
Luke and Ann took great pride in having their shop window imaginatively decorated and appropriately so to every topical event in Mohill, which greatly enhanced the Main Street.
His genuine compassion and understanding in dealing sensitively with bereaved families was universally recognised and appreciated .
He carried out his duties with a respectful and reverential dignity in the performance of his Undertaking business.
Luke was also a great family man, a devout and committed Christian who together with Ann were pillars of the local parish, helping and assisting in community life in so many different ways.
He was the quintessential gentleman, who went about his daily life in a quiet and unassuming manner.
He had a warm gentle and welcoming personality, who made customers and strangers feel at ease when they met him.
Few enjoyed the banter and the craic better than Luke and he always had an apt response or story for you.
He had a wonderful sense of humour and all who came across him were left with a lasting memory. He was a man of few airs but very many graces.
The huge numbers who called to his home to pay their respects in the days preceding the funeral, the various guards of honour who flanked his coffin as the cortege made its way along his beloved Mohill and the enormous turnout at the funeral mass bore testimony to the very high esteem in which Luke was held by all.
The greatest loss of all is to his heartbroken wife Ann, sons Paul and Alan and extended family, with these few very inadequate words we again extend our deepest and sincere sympathy.
We will never forget Luke Early the man. His like will never be seen again in the town of Mohill, it was a pleasure and a privilege to have known him.
Farewell Luke, but not Goodbye. May his Gentle Soul Rest in Peace.
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