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Patrick O’Kane was a quiet unassuming person but a humble man that held a unique honour for any Irishman as he was awarded the Key of Freedom to San Francisco.
Living all his life in Caraune, Claregalway, Patrick O’Kane was one of the most unassuming Irish farmers that one could meet and yet he was a man whose heart and courage touched the lives of most people that ever had the privilege to meet him. There was widespread sadness in the communities of Turloughmore and Claregalway last week when the news spread of the passing of this unique person in his ninetieth year.
In 1992 Patrick O’Kane was presented with the Key of Freedom to San Francisco in recognition of the many Irish people who stayed at home to mind parents and families, and watched others family members go abroad, many never to return. The shy Caraune native had travelled to San Francisco in 1992 where a son of his late sister Margaret who had emigrated to San Francisco, had become the Mayor of one of the leading cities in the United States. Frank Jordan had become Mayor of San Francisco and the man who had become a leading political figure had fond memories of a visit to Caraune in his youth and fittingly invited his only surviving uncle Patrick O’Kane to his inauguration.
Mayor Frank Jordan’s mother Margaret O’Kane had travelled to the United States to her uncles while Patrick O’Kane had stayed at home to look after his parents and family, but sadly Margaret would never return as she died in San Francisco while the family was still young, leaving her husband to bring up a young family on his own. It was ironic however that Patrick O’Kane would find himself in a similar position, following the untimely death of his wife Bridget, leaving him with a large and very young family to care for. In addition to caring for a young family Patrick O’Kane also looked after his ageing parents and Mayor Frank Jordan was very aware of the difficult times that Patrick O’Kane and the many other people like him had to endure while they watched many other family members travel to foreign soil when many made it good.
While Patrick O’Kane was in San Francisco the Mayor very aware of his personal difficulties and the plight of many more Irish families in similar situations forwarded a motion to city council to honour this unique man and present him with the Key of Freedom to San Francisco in recognition of the many Irish people who stayed at home to mind parents and families.
It was a fitting honour to a man whose life was simple and was surrounded by hard work and a loving family. Patrick O’Kane had farmed all his life and one of his few social outlets was hurling. Patrick O’Kane was captain of the Cregmore team of the forty’s and he was involved in the amalgamation with Coolarne, and played a leading role in St Vincent’s winning the County Junior Title in 1949. He was an accomplished player in his youth and his skills were fondly remembered. It was fitting that in 1994 that Patrick was honoured by Turloughmore Hurling club, when he was presented elected as President of Turloughmore Hurling Club and at his funeral member of Turloughmore Hurling Club formed a guard of honour which escorted his remains on his final journeys.
Life however struck a cruel blow for Patrick O’Kane in 1962 when his wife Bridget was taken from him while she was still in her early thirties and left him with eight very young children. However at a time when there was no state aid, the kindness of three relations eased to burden but at the same time created heartbreak as Patrick was forced to release the three youngest of the family who were reared and educated by other relations. In addition to minding these young children, Patrick’s parents were also at an advanced age and needed care which was an additional burden on a man that never complained and took on his shoulders the cross that had been given to him. Hard work was the order of the day for the Caraune farmer who found life difficult but whose tremendous faith and courage was an example to so many other people. Apart from farming Patrick worked in the building of the church in Lackagh in the late sixties and which was opened in December 1970, which at the time created another income that was to be invaluable to providing for his children.
O’Kane’s house was a home that was always open to everyone and the game of cards and attending hurling games were among Patrick’s few social outlets. Patrick was a wonderful conversationalist and a man with many wonderful sayings that had been handed down through generations. In the rat race of life that many live in to day some could take note from one of Patrick O’Kane’s phrases “We are only working for the crowd that come after us, like the crowd did before us”. Patrick was a great neighbour and friend to everyone and his likes will not be seen again. He will be fondly remembered in the community but will be sadly missed especially by his family.
The remains of Patrick O’Kane were removed from Lackagh Mortuary Chapel to the Church of Our Lady of Knock, Lackagh. Following Con-celebrated Requiem Mass where chief celebrant Canon John D Flannery, P P Lackagh was joined by Canon Noel Mullin, P P Claregalway, Fr Richard McMahon CSSR Attymon and Fr Sean Kilbane, P P Menlough, burial took place in Lackagh Cemetery.
Patrick is survived by his sons, John Joe, Billy and Padraic, daughters, Mary, Marguerite, Eileen, Nora and Geraldine, in laws, nephews, nieces and a very large circle of relatives and friends.
Frank Kearney