Larry Fanning’s wonderful legacy

Only the stone-hearted would have remained unmoved by the wonderful tributes paid in recent days to the great Larry Fanning, who passed away last Thursday at the age of 86.

That humour played such a prominent role in those tributes was entirely in keeping with a life so wonderfully and wholesomely lived as it was by the man from Marian Park.

Niall Toibin’s joyous contribution to Billy McCarthy’s ‘Deise AM’ broadcast on Friday morning was riotously funny; full of love and ‘divilment’ in recalling the many days and entertaining nights the actor spent in Fanning’s company.

Friday’s extensive and thought-provoking radio tribute, including some poignant reminisces from Light Opera Festival Chairman Sean Dower, left me regretting I’d never crossed Larry Fanning’s path.

A chat with a work colleague, who’d enjoyed just such a privilege a few days previously, merely served to re-enforce that sentiment. For time spent with Larry Fanning was clearly time well spent.

Only 24 hours prior to his death, speaking to this newspaper, he’d predicted victory for Waterford in next Sunday’s All-Ireland hurling final, a game for which he had just received a ticket for from nephew Phil.

That his was a life enjoyed until its very conclusion will surely provide solace to his family and friends in the difficult weeks and months that lie ahead.

Few could lay claim to playing roles in securing both the Liam McCarthy cup for Waterford and the long-term future of the Theatre Royal for future generations. But Larry Fanning could.

Fewer still could lay claim to persuading Niall Toibin to wear a hard hat, brandishing a shovel in the bowels of the Theatre Royal for the purposes of publicity. Again, Larry Fanning could.

While the Theatre is again closed – only temporarily of course due to extensive renovations, were it not for the efforts spearheaded by Larry Fanning, that wonderful facility was destined to go the way of the dodo. Thank the stars that Waterford theatre could boast of such a champion.

Perhaps the powers that be at the Theatre might consider a dedication to him upon its re-opening.

And should the Waterford County Board take the plunge and opt for a new home in Carriganore, might I suggest the inclusion of a museum during the construction of any new facility.

Honouring the men of 1948 and ‘59 (and, fingers crossed, 2008) so permanently would represent a surefire means of ensuring that the legacies of men like Larry Fanning and Tom Cheasty would never be forgotten.

Sunday’s All-Ireland final, already guaranteed to be one of the most emotional days in many a Waterfordian life, now carries an additional resonance given Larry’s passing.

For the McGrath brothers and Tony Browne, nourished on stories of Larry Fanning’s prowess in the colours of club and county, that resonance will be all the more powerful come throw-in time at Croke Park.

By sheer coincidence, upriver in Carrick-on-Suir on Friday night last, after many years of considerable toil, the revamped Strand Theatre was officially opened.

The town’s Musical Society, composed of a core of remarkably resilient, dedicated and unyielding men and women, are cut from the same cloth as Larry Fanning.

Their passion, to keep alive a fine musical and theatrical tradition in a house that’s been graced by giants like Mícheál MacLiammor, Liam Clancy and the aforementioned Mr Toibin, has not been in vain.

The facility now at the disposal of the Society will provide future generations from the town and beyond with a place to sing, dance and act well into this century.

Their dedication was replicated at a critical time in the history of Waterford theatre by the equally unyielding Larry Fanning, whose passion ensures a similar future for the magnificent Theatre Royal.

Wateford’s loss is truly a Heavenly chorus line’s gain. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

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