The late Brendan 'Benji' Lawlor
On Sunday July 5 Benji passed away peacefully at his home surrounded by his loving wife Siobhan, daughters Jane, Grace, Gemma and his mother Ann. He was predeceased by his father Tommy and his brother Billy. He is survived by his brothers John, Tom and Phil and his sister Marie. He was fortunate to have a very loving closely knit family, in-laws and a huge circle of friends.
Benji stoically bore his illness with remarkable dignity and bravery, maintaining his famous sense of humour right up to his final hours. He was a modest man and a very private family man, but if you got him talking about his girls the immense pride he had in them was immediately obvious. Whether it was their academic and sporting achievements or simply a funny story, he recognised their unique characters and got great enjoyment watching them become the amazing individuals they are today. He was actually in awe of his girls and truly doted on them.
Benji had friends all over the world and was often the first port of call for new players arriving in Kilkenny or old colleagues who had gone abroad. He was a true and solid friend to all and maintained friendships with friends from Bermuda to New Zealand and beyond.
The massive turnout at his funeral, despite appalling rain and Covid-19, was a testament to his outstanding popularity and the many lives he impacted.
Guards of honour were provided by the local Vintners Association and Kilkenny Rugby Club. The main Waterford Road from the Springhill roundabout up to Foulkstown Cemetery, lined with his colleagues anxious to show their respects. The sight and sound of hundreds of people clapping as his hearse paused outside the Rugby Club will not easily be forgotten.
Benji was the proprietor of the iconic and very unique Tholsel Bar on Kilkenny’s High Street. An old school establishment with the only concession to modern times being the excellent TV screens and a modern coffee maker.
Otherwise the interior hadn’t been changed in decades and this added to its old world charm. Benji’s catered for everyone from all walks of life and from every sporting background.
He could talk knowledgably on any given topic but was a passionate sportsman and followed all codes. Going in to Benji during the day was a joy for so many people because you always got a welcome and if you wanted peace and quiet to read the paper or work on your laptop you got it.
Or if you wanted to discuss last night’s match or the likely Kilkenny team for Sunday you got that too. It was possibly the best venue in Kilkenny to watch a match.
The interior of the bar with its long counter and dim lighting gave one the “terrace” feeling and with standing room only for the big matches the atmosphere was often electric.
Behind the bar Benji reigned supreme and was never flustered, even when some wag would ask him for a “toasted special” when they knew he was too busy. Benji’s response would always be his famous eye roll and a grin because he knew and we knew that if the glove was on the other foot – (an expression of his) he would do the same!
Benji’s outstanding characteristic was his sense of humour. He was extremely witty and loved a good one liner. He revelled in humorous yarns and the retelling of old exploits and no matter how often you heard him tell a story you would happily listen again to the Master as he spun his yarn and ended it with his infectious laugh.
Hopefully for Siobhan, Jane, Grace and Gemma there will be a little solace in the fact that while Benji undoubtedly left the stage way too early, it was to a standing ovation and to thunderous applause.
Goodbye dear friend.