Yesterday was a sad day for Pauline and me, as we travelled to Strabane for the funeral of her cousin, Paul Gallagher, who died in New Zealand on 2 November – he was cremated there and his ashes were sent home for burial.
I first met Paul when he called to the small flat in Harrington Street, Dublin that Pauline and I shared in 1982/83. Paul, ever sociable, had a couple of his Strabane friends with him, and we gave them toasted sandwiches. He later told Pauline that one of the things he liked about calling on us was that we always fed him well, whereas elsewhere he might get only a tea and a biscuit!
In the following years we saw Paul quite often. Sometimes we went to his flat, in Palmerston Villas or Dartry Road; often we had a few drinks with him, usually in Slattery’s of Rathmines, which was a kind of home from home for him.
Paul was an extremely clever guy, who had done very well in his tax exams and had a good job as a tax consultant. He was also extraordinarily energetic, sociable and good-natured, and spending time with him was always fun, even though his political views were different from ours. He was more right-wing, in an economic sense – a strong believer in capitalism and free markets – whereas the time we had left-wing ideas, and marched against Ronald Reagan when he visited Ireland in 1984, for example.
Paul used to try to wind Pauline up over her feminist principles, although he knew that she was well able for him. It was all good-natured – he enjoyed the banter, and I know he was very fond of her, as she was of him. He was eight days older than her.
When Paul was heading to New Zealand we bade farewell to him at one of the Fleadh Cowboys’ epic Sunday afternoon gigs at the Lower Deck in Portobello, where the beer flowed freely. We asked the band to play ‘Shelter from the Storm’ for him and to wish him well, which they did.
Paul sent Pauline a photo of him astride a palm tree in Fiji, captioned ‘Paddy goes tropo!’ She has searched the house for it in the past few weeks, but hasn’t been able to find it. He visited us in Ballinteer in the mid-1990s with his girlfriend, a Samoan woman named Eileen (who, sadly, has passed away also). I cooked dinner, we had a few drinks; they played with our small children and stayed the night. It was the last time we would see Paul.
Evidently he was well known and very popular in Auckland, where he was involved in amateur dramatics and in organizing the St Patrick’s Day parade. He had a daughter, Caitlin, who now lives in Australia; he published a book about growing up in Strabane during the Troubles. A proud Irishman, he would have been thrilled with Ireland’s performance against the All Blacks today.
Yesterday we spoke to many members of the extended Gallagher family, most of whom I had not met before, although Pauline had, of course. They spoke of how it is a shame to meet only on sad occasions, and of organizing a big family reunion soon, which we will certainly attend. The great shame is that Paul will not be there, as that is exactly the kind of thing he would have loved – a few drinks, some music, and plenty of banter, slagging and stories. He would have been in his element.
Rest in peace, Paul. You won’t be forgotten. Pauline sends her love.