At Mass in my native Portlaw on Sunday morning, a fellow churchgoer enquired about a recent fundraiser we had both attended for the primary school in nearby Piltown.
“Twas a great night, wasn’t it” she rhetorically questioned. “Sure Pilot is great altogether,” she quickly added.
The Pilot in question is Pilot Conway, known to one and all in South Kilkenny and East Waterford through his annual ‘emceeship’ of the Iverk Show.
If Mary’s “looking well today,” Pilot will duly inform all patrons of the country’s oldest agricultural show over the public address of just how well she’s looking. That particular Thursday in September just wouldn’t be the same without him!
Always in good spirit and never short the turn of phrase a day like the Iverk Show demands, Pilot is someone everybody knows and everybody likes. And there are several reasons why.
The Piltown NS fundraiser was brought about by the sheer strength of Pilot’s personality and amiable nature.
He is a man impossible to say no to because of his good humoured yarn-spinning, generosity of spirit and thorough, absolute decency as a human being. The place he is native to means something to him well beyond the postal address. The roots run deep.
Pilot is a 100 per cent, bona fide, civic citizen, a true pillar of his community, a champion of people. And he’s one of quite a few men and women I’m lucky enough to know who fit that same description.
Take Dick Meany in Carrick-on-Suir as another magnificent example of the sort of person I’m referring to.
His force of will and unbridled enthusiasm is arguably the greatest single factor in making the town’s Musical Society such a vibrant source of recreation and entertainment for the locality.
To look at the Strand Theatre now in all its remodelled glory is a tremendous and deserved reflection on the strength of Dick’s personality.
What also makes him a man worth saluting is his passion for the craft staged in the Strand and, most importantly, his investment in people.
Dick’s name is known in business and musical circles the country over, but his willingness to do a good turn, to help raise a few bob for a good cause, makes him a man I and many others greatly admire. To put it simply, Dick Meany, just like Pilot Conway, is a man worth knowing.
Back home in Portlaw, many a person merits reference here, but two men named Mick spring to mind.
Mick Comerford was a great neighbour and friend to my late Grandparents for many years, and both he and my Grandad spent many a post-Sunday Mass hour counting the church collection in the Community Hall.
Both Micks, the other being Mick Cuddihy, spent several pleasant summer nights tending to the upkeep of the streets and the Marian Grotto through their work with the local Tidy Towns group.
Year after year, they remained committed to their task with good humour and made you proud that the place you were reared and educated in could produce such excellent people.
Speaking of excellent people, down the road in Ballyduff, there are quite a few like-minded folk to compare with the aforementioned. Again, I could mention a litany, but space permits otherwise, so forgive my singling out just two – Ollie and Kathleen Harris.
Be it in the cause of the parish, the local GAA club or the National School, Ollie and Kathleen have regularly offered a shoulder toward any community wheel that required pushing. And through it all, be the job big or small, a smile has never far from either spouse’s face.
Wherever you live, the chances are there’s a Pilot Conway, a Dick Meany, a Mick Comerford or a Kathleen Harris a few doors or miles away – decent people, generous people, outstanding people.
They are the threads that form the quilt of community, forming vibrant, energetic, wholesome places through their good works.
And what lesser places our communities would be were such people not among us.