Graveside Eulogy for Joe Monahan

What can I say about Joe Monahan that everyone doesn’t know already. Joe lived by a very simple philosophy. His life was an open book. What you saw was what you got and he always wore his heart on his sleeve.
Outside of my immediate family Joe was my best friend , but then I would say there are lots of people that would say the same of Joe. That was the type of man he was.

I would like to share some of my memories with you. I remember Joe Monahan as a young laughing man of about nineteen or twenty in the combined charities carnival in Tullamore long ago. When the dance would be over, nearly everyone that Joe met would ask him for a lift home and Joe couldn’t say no to anyone. So long as he could squeeze into the Volkswagen beetle, sit on the soap box (that was the driving seat! ) and close the door he was happy. Everyone was welcome. That was back in the 1960s and then years later in 1995, Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann were collecting archival material around the country and it so happened that my daughter Sheila was covering the Tullamore, Clara and Rahan area. She was so impressed with the talent in the Rahan area, especially with the groups that Joe Monahan had put together, that she asked me if there was any way of keeping this talent together. I rang Joe Monahan and said:
“How about starting a Comhaltas branch in Rahan?”
Joe said: “What’s that?”

So I explained that it is like a G.A.A. club, except Comhaltas call it a branch and it is all music, song and dance. He thought it was a great idea and Joe being Joe, ‘not one to let the grass grow under his feet,’ by the
time the phone call had ended there was a date set for a meeting. A few days later I was talking to the late Paddy O’Calahan R.I.P. who used to broadcast “Coppers and Brass” on Midlands Radio 3 at the time.
I asked him how do we start a C.C.E. branch in Rahan. He said that you will have to call a meeting of all those interested. I told him we have already called a meeting and gave him the date and time. He said: “Ah, I can’t go that night but I’ll send Paddy Duffy and a couple of County Board members. By the way, how many people do you have for the meeting?”
To which I said: “I only have Joe Monahan so far”
And he replied: “Well if you have Joe Monahan I know it will be a
success!”
We got the branch started and we got our first program together. Soon Joe didn’t stick to the program and even started telling jokes. Then, to add insult to injury, he would turn to the group and say into the mic:
“What’s next Lads?”

We used to be so embarrassed, but we soon came to realize that Joe’s way was the best way. So much so that when we eventually came to record our first CD, we called it: “What’s next Lads?” Joe never realized how talented he was. He thought that because he didn’t play an instrument that he couldn’t be talented. Behind Joe’s appearance of great confidence on stage, he was a very humble man and often doubted his own ability. One night we were doing a concert in the Irish Centre in Leeds in England. Joe was in full flight and had an audience of six or seven hundred, eating out of his hand. There were two women in the audience, three rows down, at centre stage and they were laughing so much that we were concerned that they might get a heart attack. In the middle of one of Joe’s jokes he stopped, looked down at them and said:
“What are ye laughing at girls?”
The entire audience nearly fell out of their seats laughing. It was not always what he said but more the way he said it. Towards the end of the show, the Leeds Comhaltas branch chairman came on stage and praised the show. He said: 
“You have mighty music, brilliant dancers and as for your M.C. – He has hardly two words to string together.” 
The audience then gave Joe a huge round of applause and Joe turned to me saying: 
“What did he mean by that? I thought I was doing alright.” 
I replied to him:
“Joe, don’t you know that the highest form of praise is sarcasm. He has paid you the highest complement he could think of so go out and take a bow.” Joe still worried that the chairman might be criticizing him. 

My greatest memory of Joe at his best, was at the All Ireland Fleadh in Tullamore. Every year the Fleadh is closed by a performance from the All Ireland Senior Ceili Band winners on the main stage. This is always a problem for who ever is looking after the entertainment. Because of adjudication and possible call backs, the Ceili band could arrive at the main stage any time from ten thirty in the evening to midnight. There is always a huge crowd  waiting to see the newly crowned champions and it’s the responsibility of the organizers to keep the crowd happy. That is not easy because the final slot might be as short as ten minutes or as long as an hour and a half and the entertainment must be of the highest order. On the night in question I was responsible for the entertainment. I had a great group on stage for the final slot. They did their usual program and even an extra ten minutes. Then they stood up, bowed to the audience and left the stage despite my best efforts to get them to stay. As yet there was still no sign of the Ceili band. Joe was M.C. all weekend, so I asked him to go up on stage and explain to the  crowed what was happening. Joe took to centre stage totally unprepared in front of about two and a half thousand people and delivered forty five minutes of pure professional stand up comedy. When the Ceili band did finally  arrive, Joe had the crowed so exited they were shouting for more. 
Joe had sayings for occasions, like when we would be doing an outside gig and if the weather was good Joe would get the crowd to raise their hands and say: 
“Thank you God for the fine day!”

Sometimes at a meeting we would be discussing going on a trip or entering a competition and there might be dissenting voices amongst the group. Joe would throw his hands up and say: 
“The  easiest thing in the world to do is to do nothing. You won’t get into trouble with anyone if you do nothing.” 
From time to time, one of our most prominent members like a teacher, a musician or a dancer would leave the group. Maybe they might be emigrating, getting married, moving away or going to college. We would be wringing our hands wondering what we’re going to do. That’s when Joe would say: 
“Every one of us can be done without. We can all be replaced.” Let me tell you Joe, you will never be replaced. You can never be replaced. So now Joe take a well earned rest. Farewell my friend, slan agus banacht.

by John Gaffey

Category: News | RSS 2.0 Both comments and pings are currently closed.

No Comments

  • Supported by Music Network’s Music Capital Scheme, funded by The Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. Music Network is funded by The Arts Council