- Liam Whitney
Many visitors to Governey Park,
Graiguecullen, wonder why one of the avenues there is called Whitney
Place. Many of the younger generation too are unaware who Whitney
was. The answer is the avenue was so called to honour and perpetuate
the name of a great Graiguecullen man, Liam Whitney.
William Whitney was born in Sletty
Street, Graiguecullen on 11 May 1915. His father was Thomas Whitney
and his mother was Mary Kenny of Moone, Co. Kildare.
Whitneys’ (as it was popularly called)
was at the extreme end of the row of small houses then forming
Sletty Street. The house was very conspicuous as it was the only
two-storey building on the row. Liam was the second eldest of a
family of five boys and one girl. He attended Graiguecullen B.N.S.
where he was an outstanding pupil. He was a diligent student and
took a particular interest in the Irish Language and Irish History.
It was not surprising therefore, that all through his life he signed
himself Liam De Fuitne; spoke Irish whenever possible, and urged
those with whom he came into contact to use any Irish words they
knew, no matter how simple they might be.
After leaving Graiguecullen School he
attended Technical School in Carlow. Even in later years when in
employment he continued to attend various classes in the Technical
Liam got employment in Knockbeg College
where he eventually rose to the position of chargehand. Being
skilful in carpentry and building he was indispensable about the
college. He had also charge of the livestock in which he took a keen
interest. Liam gave them the same attention as if they really
belonged to himself. However, most people in Carlow knew him as the
man who came into town in the car to buy various provisions for the
College. The College authorities knowing that he was a young man of
high intelligence and absolute integrity entrusted him with this
work and their trust was not misplaced.
As his father and mother had died at a
comparatively early age Liam worked hard after hours to supplement
the family income. He was ready at all times to do any work on farm
or elsewhere which would bring in money to rear and educate the
younger members of the family.
However, Liam thought of others as well
as his own. Anyone in need had only to mention it and he was ready
to help: to repair a leaking roof, to dig a garden for some old
person, to finance parents unable to clothe their children for Holy
Communion or Confirmation etc. etc. In a word Liam was a real
Christian gentleman. His charity was unbounded, he was a man of his
word. He said he would do a thing it was done. He was absolutely
honest and in Goldsmith’s words “He owed not any man. ’’He was
forthright in his views. His listeners knew he meant what he said.
There was no shilly shallying about him.
As a Gaelic Football enthusiast he was
known far and wide. He was the driving force in Graiguecullen G.F.
Club where he was Treasurer and Secretary for many years. His house
was the G.A.A. headquarters where jerseys were stored, teams
selected, matches re-played. bruises healed. As it overlooked
Fennell’s Field The Old Football Ground - it seemed to keep constant
watch over the Gaelic activities.
Liam’s ambition was to have a proper
playing pitch for Graiguecullen. He inspired the other members of
the club to collect funds to purchase a suitable field.
Unfortunately he had passed away before the dream had become a
reality with the opening of Fr. Maher Park. I am sure that from
Heaven he often looks down at that spacious arena.
Like his uncle Pakey (another famous
Whitney in his day) Liam took a deep and active interest in
politics; this was not surprising as he was always a great student
of the chequered history of his native land.
Liam was blessed with a particularly
good singing voice and in the mid 1940’s was a member of the famous
St. Fiacc’s Choir which broadcast from Radio Eireann several times
and was heard at concerts in many parts of the country for many
years. With his usual thoroughness Liam never missed a choir
practice or concert engagement and he was very disappointed when
eventually the group disbanded.
Liam died unexpectedly on 11th March
1957 in the prime of life. However, he passed to his eternal reward
as he would have wished, working in the College he had served so
well, surrounded by the priests to whom he had given such devoted
service. I bhFlaitheas De go raibh a anam dilis.
When the houses were built in the Sletty
portion of Graiguecullen the people urged the Urban Council to call
one of the streets after the man who had been for long such a
wonderful figure in the village. Hence in Graiguecullen we have
today ‘‘Whitney Place’’ as a last ing memorial to a local man who
was a great Christian and a grand specimen of Irish manhood. Let us
hope that many will try to follow in his footsteps.
was previously published in the
Parish of KILLESHIN, Graiguecullen'. by P.MacSuibhne.
1972. (no longer in print)
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