June 13, 2006
The late Austin Henry
On March 12, 2006, Austin Henry, Cappagh, passed to his eternal reward, aged 91 years. Austin was born in Crossard in 1915. He was one of four brothers and two sisters. He went to school in Crossard and also helped his parents on the farm. He used to sell the cabbage in the local town for nine old pence for a hundred.
When he left school he worked with Mayo County Council for a short time, breaking stones for one shilling a box - very hard work. He then went to serve his time as a blacksmith with Quinns of Ballinlough for three years. His mother had to pay £15 per year for this.
Austin used to cycle to Ballinlough on a Monday morning and stay there until Friday evening when he would cycle home again. Quinns was a very good blacksmith establishment and Austin learned a very good trade which stood to him all his life.
When he finished his trade, he rented a forge in Killmane for a short time. A man called Glavey had a forge in Tooreen across from Jim Frayne's which he sold to a local farmer. Austin then rented this building and with the help of a local handyman Pat Morley they did up this old building and put a thatched roof on it.
Austin travelled to Dublin to buy equipment for his work, but he also fashioned a lot of tools for his trade. This forge was used for a number of years but was blown down on a stormy night. He then built a new forge on their own land near Cappagh Crossroads in 1949.
The forge was a great social and meeting place where you could catch up on the local news. Austin also used to rent Quinns forge in Ballinlough for one day a week where he carried out a mobile farrier service around the county.
Along with his work in the forge, he also began to reclaim the boggy area around the forge, 13 acres in all, and along with this he bought and break horses an sold them on for a profit.
At this stage, Austin was married and had a young family, five sons and four family, five sons and four daughters, so he used to travel to England each year for some seasonal work.
This took him to Skipton for the haymaking and Scunthrope for the potato picking. He did this each year from 1949 to 1963. It was tough on his wife Annie during those years, bringing up a young family for part of the years on her own, as did many housewives in rural Ireland at that time.
In those years, Austin began to grow vegetables on the reclaimed bog and he was ahead of his time. With the help of his wife Annie they pre-packed the vegetables in various sizes and Austin would deliver them to the supermarkets all around Mayo.
This was the start of the market gardening business in Tooreen that has blossomed into a thriving enterprise run now by Austin's two sons, Tony and Vincent. Up until recent times, Austin took a big part in the day-to-day running of the business and travelled the county delivering goods.
When Tooreen dance hall was in full swing Austin was employed as a doorman. He worked alongside other great gentlemen, Edward Murphy, JT Grealy and John Joe Grealy who I am glad to say are in great health.
Austin used to cut and sell nine or ten trailers of turf each year. One of Austin's great loves was the game of hurling. His son Michael was one of the founders of the great Tooreen Hurling Club. Austin and Michael Nolan were the two people who bought the ground off the Land Commission for the princely sum of 12 pounds rent per year until it was paid for.
Austin never missed a game of hurling and was always available to carry the teams to matches as cars were not to many in the he early years. He never had a problem to leave work to do so and he was never afraid to give his verdict on a game weather you liked it or not and he was also involved in fundraising for the club over the years.
There is one story that is told, although it was always believed Austin never played hurling. However, he did play in one game as a corner forward. He did not score but he did make up the numbers on that one day. He also used to travel to Galway to collect his son, the great Joe Henry who was in college there and bring him home to play with his club.
Even in later years, as his health began to fail, he would still travel to games and park alongside the pitch to watch the game. Another great passion he had was the game of 25. Austin travelled to where ever there was a game and, as they used to say, he would know the cards you would have in your hand.
Austin was a very religious and God-fearing many, and each Sunday he and his wife Anne never missed Mass in Tooreen Church. One of his great joys was to see his family come home and bring his grandchildren; he also made several trips to England for wedding and family gatherings. Austin and Annie were 67 years married last year (2005).
On March 12, 2006, Austin passed away peacefully at his home with his family around him. He is laid to rest in the family plot in Aghamore cemetery. He is survived by his dear wife Anne, five sons, four daughters, twenty-one grandchildren and fourteen great grandchildren.
May his gentle soul rest easy in the arms of the Lord.
Courtesy of Western People
13 June 2006
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