My Fair (Green) Lady

A DEEP void and a profound sense of loss was genuinely felt in the Parnell Street/ Fair Green area of Kilkenny city recently with the sad passing of one of its much-loved and respected citizens, Tessie Young. I doubt if writing about Tessie in the form of a tribute would appeal to her simplistic nature, so I will just recount details of her life in a way she would have approved and simply “call it as it was.”

A DEEP void and a profound sense of loss was genuinely felt in the Parnell Street/ Fair Green area of Kilkenny city recently with the sad passing of one of its much-loved and respected citizens, Tessie Young. I doubt if writing about Tessie in the form of a tribute would appeal to her simplistic nature, so I will just recount details of her life in a way she would have approved and simply “call it as it was.”

Born Tessie Walsh in 19 Parnell Street in January 1928, she uniquely went on to live all her single and married life in the same house, and, if you had time to spare, she would regale you with her accounts of historic events and happenings which took place in this area, between St Mary’s Cathedral and the Fair Green.

Most notable of these would be her graphic descriptions of the famous and infamous “Fair Days” which were held in the “Green,” where all the farming communities in Kilkenny and neighbouring counties would meet once a month to trade livestock in this renowned city venue. How they avoided school was anybody’s guess, but Tessie, in company with her brother Mickey and sister Polly and some Parnell Street neighbours would access the Fair Green from the bottom of their garden on these days and gladly accept the odd three or sixpenny piece, better known as a “Tanner” in return for running some errands to the local shops for the farmers. She was indeed proud of her roots and her beloved Parnell Street neighbours, whom she often described as the “salt of the earth.”

Tessie attended school in the Presentation convent in nearby James’ Street until, at the age of 15, she commenced her working life in the Kilkenny Woollen Mills on the Bleach Road and later in the Ormonde Woollen Mills on the Canal Walk. There she continued her employment until she met her near neighbour, Philly Young, who had returned from England to his family home at 23 Parnell Street to begin his plumbing business in Kilkenny. They married in 1961 in St Mary’s Cathedral and, in the natural progression of time, her happiness was complete when she gave birth to three lovely daughters, Miriam, Anne and Sinéad.

Tessie was an avid sports enthusiast and religiously followed the fortunes of her beloved Kilkenny hurlers to the very last. Her other great favourite was the Freebooters football club, whose ground was at the Fair Green, and when Freebooters played Ormonde Villa, Tessie had divided loyalties as she had family connections on both sides. Indeed, it is worth mentioning that Tessie’s home at Parnell Street has historic attachments to Kilkenny football as it was here on March 6, 1926, that the first Kilkenny soccer league was formed, with her father, Nicholas “Navvy” Walsh elected vice-chairman of the first committee. In 1976, the golden jubilee of this historic event was celebrated with the then mayor of Kilkenny, Alderman Seamus Pattison, unveiling a plaque commemorating a great milestone in Kilkenny football. This plaque hangs over the house to this day, with all the names of the first committee inscribed, and remains a great source of pride to successive generations of the Walsh family.

Though she never sought or received any materialistic pleasures, Tessie was a very happy person who considered herself duly enriched in the wonderful family atmosphere she worked so hard to create through selfless dedication and devotion to her husband and children. This, together with her sporting interests and her passion for bingo, made happiness a very simple virtue for her and she maintained this outlook on life to the very end.

Tessie, you were a very special person. The ladylike qualities which came natural to you from your pleasant nature and friendly demeanour, allied to an ever-present willingness to help others, will prove an inspiring legacy to your family, especially grandchildren – Alan, Paul, Megan, Zak, Hannah, Ruby, Andrew and Christopher – and will stand to them throughout their lives. It was, indeed, a great privilege to have known you and to share a part of your family life. Our memories of you will always be very long and very lasting.

And when the final whistle blows

He will not ask your name

Or if you won, or if you lost

But how you played the game

In every aspect of a lovely life, Tessie Young always played the game.

– N.N.