It's hard to express in words the shock and sadness felt with the recent passing of John Devine, Reenacoolagh, Ballysaggart, Lismore following an accident on Friday, September 7, 2007.
Son of the late Jack and Margaret (Peg) Devine, his passing aged just 54 years has robbed the community of Ballysaggart and further afield of a true leader. John was predeceased by his father Jack in 1979, his mother Peg in 1997 and his nephew Sean in 1988. He resided at the family home in Reenacoolagh. Having received his eduction at Ballysaggart N.S., John settled into dedicating himself to life on the farm. This dedication also extended to helping so many farmers all over Ireland, thanks to John's hard work and persistence in furthering farmer issues.
In his early years he was an active member of Ballysaggart Macra Na Feirme after helping in its re-establishment in the late 1960s and went on to hold many officerships in the club and county. Following from Macra he also took an active involvement in the Ploughing Association, participating in many competitions both locally and nationally. It was in this field that he prided himself in a job well done whether it was in ploughing, the straightness of the furrow or in a field of new mown hay the neatness of the swath. John always took pride in his work and went about it in his careful and cheerful manner and of course also fitted in the chat with his many good neighbours and friends in Deriheen.
He was also founder member of the National Hill Farmers Association and along with others, travelled the length and breadth of Ireland visiting and assessing the needs of other farmers, seeking meetings with various Ministers for Agriculture and often securing better deals for the hill farmers.
Sheep farming and also cattle farming was also to play a major part in John's life. The many awards won showing sheep at various shows: Dungarvan and the Cork Summer Show to name a few, while the Spring Show in the RDS was always a highlight. At the time of his death John served as chairman of the National Hill Sheep Farmers' Association and also was for many years chairman of the Waterford Sheep Breeders' Association.
However, outside of farming his greatest love was for the GAA; especially his beloved Ballysaggart and over the last few years served with pride and passion as chairman. They say being chairman can be simple and easy as the secretary has the greater work load - but John didn't see it that way; whether it was attending Western or County Board meetings, club events, organising hurleys and sliothars, tickets for Waterford matches - John was also a true Deise supporter and rarely, if ever missed a league or championship game.
Whilst John's sudden passing has left so many people shocked, they can feel privileged to have had such an active and hardworking activist in their midst whose memory they will cherish forever. To his loving brothers James and Billy, his uncle John, sisters-in-law Betty and Anne, nephews Pat, JJ, Michael and Daniel and niece Kate, cousins both at home and abroad, relatives and a large circle of friends we extend our sincere sympathy.
John lay in repose at his brother Billy's residence in Glengarra and many hundreds of people from all over the country who called to pay their respects bore true testimony to the high esteem that John held in his community and further afield.
Family Rosary was recited and on Sunday evening after prayers recited by Fr M Cullinan PP removal took place to St Mary's Church Ballysaggart. Outside the village, his coffin draped in his beloved Ballysaggart flag was carried the last quarter mile by members of Ballysaggart GAA Club an the Sheep Breeders' Association. On arrival at the Church his remains were blessed and received by Fr M Cullinan PP and Fr Arthure PE.
Requiem mass was offered up on Monday morning for the happy repose of John's soul. Chief Celebrant was Fr M Cullinane, assisted by Fr K Mulcahy PP, Fr J Kiely PP and Fr P Fitzgerald PP. Readings were shared by his sisters-in-law Anne and Betty Devine. The Prayers of the Faithful were recited by Pat and Daniel Devine and Michael O'Brien. A number of gifts representative of John's life were brought to the altar for the Offertory Procession with suitable commentary by Michael Devine. Statuette of a sheep - Kate Devine; hurley and sliotar - Fergal Meagher; match programme of this year's All-Ireland final - Breda Clancy; club history of Ballsaggart GAA - Eddie Veale, while the bread and wine were brought forward by JJ Devine and Frank O'Connor. The Communication reflection was read by James Devine, while Billy devine on behalf of the family thanked all present for their help and support, especially the neighbours and friends. The appropriate music and hymns provided by accordionist Nora Hogan (family friend) and the Ballysaggart Parish Choir led by Anne Carey, organist was much appreciated.
After Mass, John;s remains, draped in his beloved club's colours by his loving family and accompanied by member of the Ballysaggart GAA were carried to the adjoining cemetery where after prayers recited by Fr M Cullinan PP and a decade of the Rosary said by Fr P Fitzgerald PP. John was laid to rest in his beloved Balllysaggart. After the burial, Joe Kelly, Secretary of the National Hill Farmers' Association and James Brosnan, founder member of same, spoke glowingly of the input John had brought to the Hill Farmers and Sheep Breeders Association, while Pat Bennett gave the following oration on behalf of the Ballysaggart GAA Club.
Little did we think a few short days ago that we would be here burying John on a glorious autumn morning, the kind of day John would have liked and would have made so much of. John had many passions in life - Ballysaggart GAA, Sheep Breeding, Ploughing, Farming, to name just a few. Above all though, his passion was people. John loved working, chatting and helping people. All were treated with the same respect, dignity and good humour. He rubbed shoulders with government members, chatted to his boys and girls who came along to watch a training session, discussed ploughing, politics or sheep, all with the same ease.
Being Chairman of Ballysaggart GAA Club was a great source of pride and working for it a labour of love. No task too small, no job too big. It will only be in the coming weeks and months that we will come to realise just how great his contribution was - cutting the field, lining the pitch, organising the hurleys, buying sliotars, attending meetings, were just a few of the jobs that Mr Chairman did. He loved to use his network of contacts from Tyrone to Kerry to out manoeuvre 'bigger clubs' in providing choice tickets for his beloved Ballysaggart.
His many adventures deserve to be recorded, just a few of which were recounted over the last few days include the attendance at a Western Board meeting that lasted over 24 hours, or the case of the GAA official who had failed for days to secure a meeting with a government minister only for John to arrange it in a matter of hours.
Then there was the time when John and an accomplice had the seemingly easy task of collecting a few dozen hurleys only to return two days later minus the hurleys but no doubt with stories to tell. A book on his life would surely be a best-seller.
John touched the lives of many people the length and breadth of the county and the lives of those who knew him will be so much poorer for his untimely passing.
Most of all, John will e missed by his family; his brothers James and Billy, his sisters-in-law Betty and Anne, his uncle John, his many relations and especially by his nephews and niece who meant so much to John and of whom he was so proud.
We salute and celebrate your life John and our lives have been made the more richer for having known you, whether as a brother, uncle, nephew, clubman or friend. We will miss you Chalkie. Ní bheigh a leithéid ann arís.
Courtesy of The Avondhu.
18 October, 2007.