Lack School - 1863 to 1975

A History of the School and its Pupils
by James Hehir

«Contents

13. Special Talents

This exercise would not be complete without reference to a small group of persons of special and unique talent. Persons with special talent spring up in every generation. Sadly, like most members of the community they are soon forgotten once their lives are over. The following is a sample of persons from the Lack school roll books with special talents in various fields:

Michael Kelly

Mr. Michael Kelly

Michael Kelly, Lack Cross
The Kelly family from Lack cross merit recognition as the most enterprising family to attend Lack school in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
Michael registered at Lack school in 1888. Having worked the family farm for many years, the opportunity to diversify arose about 1925 when he responded to an advertisement from Alfa Laval, the Swedish manufacturer of milking equipment. They were seeking a representative to sell their products in County Clare.
Their main product was the milk separator which was an efficient means of removing cream from milk replacing the old inefficient skimming method. It increased butter output and farmers income.
Armed with brief experience selling Lister milking machines as an assistant to Mr Casey in Kildysart, good sales talk, a good singer, dancer and story teller Michael Kelly was successful in his application. Over the next 10 years he became a household name throughout County Clare, from Kilbaha to Killaloe, selling mainly milk separators and also churns and steam boilers. For much of this period his sole means of transport was the bicycle while his duties included the sale, delivery and installation of the machines. In his final years he acquired a van. The building of the creameries marked he end of the life for the milk separator and Michael Kelly's position with Alfa Laval.

New ventures involving his family were to follow:

Housing Contract in 1941/1942: The Kelly family were awarded the contract for the building of a house for Jack Murphy near by. The contract price was £280. For the record, the stone was taken from the ruin of the workhouse in Kildysart. The stone mason was Michael Moloney from Kilmihil whose price for the stone work was £13. He lodged with his brother-in-law Stephen Clancy at Tonlegee for the duration of the job. New slate was provided at a cost of £28.

Purchase of Thrashing Machine in 1944: Michael Kelly purchased a horse drawn thrasher in 1944 but soon upgraded to one operated by a tractor and purchased a Fordson. His sons Miko and Joe thrashed the corn from Newmarket-on-Fergus to Labasheda for many years.

Erection of Lime Kiln in 1947: the Kelly family constructed a lime kiln alongside their home in 1947. It received little use as the process of burning lime was soon superseded by ground lime stone.

Michael died in January 1975. Tribute must be paid to his wife, Margaret Kelly, who ran the farm, a shop and reared a family of 9 children during the period when Michael was working away from home.
The talent in Business and in particular Sales was not restricted to Michael. His brother Jack (Lack school 1885) became a very successful salesman selling insurance in Chicago, USA, in the period to the depression in 1929.

Andrew (Sonny) Honan

Andrew (Sonny) Honan

Andrew (Sonny) Honan from Lack registered at Lack school in 1911. While he was a rather disorganised student - school books were usually lost within a short time - it mattered little, as Sonny had the entire contents in his memory and could quote them as required, in some instances up to his death on the 20th March 1989. He was a very clever student with a special aptitude for literature. Later in life, those of us who attended Lack school in the 1950s, marvelled at his recall of prose, poetry, dates and facts covering a wide range of subjects. He enjoyed the challenge as much as we enjoyed the novelty of an occasional encounter with a unique brain and personality. We could only wonder what level he would have achieved had he been given the opportunity.

Michael Haugh

Michael Haugh

Michael Haugh from Clonakilla registered at Lack school in 1937. He qualifies for this section of the history on two counts - his extensive travels in his early years and his achievement in the field of decorative plaster work.
He first served his time as a carpenter with the legendary Martie Breen of Lissycasey. Later he became a plasterer, a trade that he has practised throughout his life, specialising in decorative ceilings. He was introduced to this skill in the 1960s and has practised it since. He has become the local Michelangelo because of the amount of time he has spent decorating ceilings with his various designs set in hard wall plaster.

Sun dial

Sun dial

In a ten year period to 1963 he worked as a plasterer in four continents - Europe (London), Australia, South Africa and America (New York) returning briefly in 1954 to build a new house replacing the old family residence. While travel is now common we must bear in mind that it was quite limited at that time. For example, his first experience of travel by air occurred when he travelled from London to South Africa on a chartered flight. It landed at the following airports - Brussels (Belgium), Cologne (Germany), Rome (Italy), Benghazi (Libya), Khartoum (Sudan), Mombassa (Kenya) and Lourenza Marques (Mozambique), where the flight terminated. The remainder of the journey was undertaken by train. The journey took 14 days and cost £80. Air travel had much improved two years later when he flew from Johannesburg to New York by Pan American Airways stopping over only at Brazzaville (Congo) and Santa Maria in the Azores.
He spent roughly an equal period in each continent, never experiencing any difficulty in securing work, visiting all places of interest and returning home for regular holidays where he fascinated his many admirers with his tales from faraway places.
He returned home in the early 1960s and has resided at his home in Clonakilla to this day. Now in semi retirement he builds sun dials as a hobby. He has always had a fascination with the geometry of the face of the sun dial. Again, the quality of his work is reflected in the length of the waiting lists for his hand made product.

Patrick Sheehan

Patrick Sheehan

Patrick Sheehan from Tonlegee registered at Lack school in 1937. Paddy earns a place on this list in view of his key role in fund raising for the missions. When Bob Geldof launched the Live Aid concert in 1986 Paddy Sheehan, a bachelor farmer, seized on the idea and launched Wren Aid to coincide with Wren Day on St. Stephen's day - the 26th of December 1986. The objective of this charitable venture was to secure much-needed funds for a former neighbour, Fr. Patrick Kelly, to assist his mission at Kakamega in Kenya. The funds were used for various missionary purposes such as building the new church, building a health centre, the purchase of medicine and the provision of food for those in need.
Wren Aid was organised by a local committee chaired by Paddy Sheehan and assisted by the generous support received from the households in the area from Lissycasey to Lisheen, Ballynacally, Kildysart and Cranny. Wren Aid differed from Live Aid in one significant respect. Live Aid was a one-off venture while Wren Aid became an annual event. It continued following the death of Paddy Sheehan in January 2000, channelling thousands of Euro assisting Fr. Kelly's mission until his death in September 2003.

Maretta O'Hehir

Maretta O'Hehir

Maretta O'Hehir from Ballycorick registered at Lack school in 1942. She was the daughter of Mrs. Eileen O'Hehir, the highly respected school's assistant teacher at the time. She earns her place in the school history as one of Ireland's most celebrated sopranos.
Maretta was educated at Lack school and the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Roscrea. She received her musical training at the Royal Irish Academy and at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston.

Through her musical career she has played the lead role, with the highest distinction, in popular shows such as A Night in Venice, Brigadoon, Carmen, Die Fliedermaus, Desert Song, Gypsy Barron, Rosemarie and The Merry Widow. She has performed in towns throughout Ireland, such as Carrick on Suir, Dublin, Limerick, Roscrea and Warrenpoint where she co-starred with Austin Gaffney, one of Ireland's leading baritones. She has performed with the Rathmines and Rathgar Musical Society and entertained the then President of Ireland Dr. Eamonn DeVelara, at the Mansion House. In the US she sang with the Boston Opera Company.
Maretta has also performed as chief soloist with the Bunratty' Castle Singers and travelled with them in most European countries including Iceland and as far afield as Canada, USA and the Bahamas.
She has won many awards at the Waterford International Festival of Light Opera including the Best Voice, Best Female Voice, etc.
She declined invitations to tour with both the Boston and Santa Fe Opera Companies and turned down an operatic career due to family commitments.

She has released her own CD of Irish Songs and presented her own radio show of music from the world of light opera on Clare FM.

Today, she continues to perform at probably the highest standard of her long career in music. She also provides tuition, passing on a lifetime of achievement and experience to the performers of the future.

Michael Frawley

Mr. Michael Frawley

Michael Frawley from Tonlegee was educated at Lack School, where he registered in 1948, and the Vocational School in Ennis.
He has emerged as one of the most successful entrepreneurs and politicians to have attended Lack school. Having worked in the bar and catering industry, he purchased the White House in Kinsale, the gourmet capital of Ireland, in 1987. It is a substantial premises in the centre of Kinsale, containing bars, restaurant and guesthouse. He has since operated a very successful business.
Michael has also been involved in politics over the years. He served as a Fianna Fail member of Kinsale Urban Council for a period of 14 years, holding the position of Chairman in 1989/90.
He has taken a particular interest in the tourism industry, having held a position in sales and catering at Bunratty Castle in 1969, and holding the Chairmanship of both the Cork/Kerry Tourism and Kinsale Chamber of Tourism.

John Cusack

John Cusack

John Cusack from Glencanane registered at Lack school in 1968. A member of a very distinguished academic family, John Cusack merits special mention as probably the only past pupil from Lack school to be awarded a Masters Degree by an American university.
He was educated at Lack school, Ballynacally school, St John Bosco's school, Cahercon and Fordham university USA, one of America's premier Jesuit Universities. There he was awarded a masters degree in Business Administration, specialising on international business with the emphasis on emerging markets like China.
Having worked in accounting in Ennis for 5 years he spent 2 years in Australia and has been in the US since 1989. In the US his career in banking has developed. He now holds the position of a Vice President of Allied Irish Banks leading a team responsible for the banks business in the 5 states of New England.