*Br Sean MacNamara in Carron. Photograph: Eamon Ward.

Since his death on Saturday last, many tributes have been paid to Brother Seán MacNamara who has been one of Co. Clare’s finest ambassadors for many years.

By Tony Mulvey

Popular and widely known, he was a native of Kilmurry McMahon and was a few months short of his 96th birthday.

A fluent Irish speaker, Brother Seán had interests that ranged from the GAA, Irish language, music flora and fauna of the Burren where he conducted many tours, photography and electronics and at one stage assembled his own radio. Gifted in many ways, he was highly respected and welcomed everywhere he went.

He had many friends all over Ireland and visited them regularly. He also made several pilgrimages to Fatima, Lourdes, Rome, Medujorie and Knock where he made many more friends.

Mourners attending his funeral mass in Ennis Cathedral on Tuesday were told that Brother Seán was an inspiration, a symbol of dedication and above all a true friend to all.

During his long life well spent he produced numerous publications and wrote weekly columns for local newspapers. However, he will be remembered for his interest in the GAA and its founder Michael Cusack. He wrote extensively on the man from Carron and gave numerous talks on him all over the country. His first visit to Carron was in 1965 when only a small portion of the wall of Cusack’s home existed. During 1985 he published a series of articles entitled Cusack’s County in The Clare Champion.

Since then, he has published numerous articles for various publications dealing with Cusack. Among them was Micheál on gCorn to remind people of what Cusack accomplished on behalf of his country during his short life. He also published the 96-page book The Man from Carron. In recent years, he provoked controversy when he claimed that the GAA was founded in Cusack’s home in Gardiner Place Dublin (now the Dergvale Hotel) rather than in Hayes’ Hotel in Thurles.

In his latest and last publication, Michael Cusack – the GAA Where and When -Brother Seán said he had no choice but to accept that the GAA was Michael Cusack’s brain child and born in his academy. Cusack and his most loyal supporter Davin did not come to Thurles to discuss the movement which was already in existence but to announce the inauguration or official formation of the GAA. Thurles had every reason to be glad it was chosen to announce the official start of the GAA.

He donated all his research work and articles on Cusack to the Michael Cusack Centre in Carron where he gave another talk last September on the occasion of the 175th birthday of Cusack. To mark the birthday, he and former Whitegate and Clare hurler, Naoise Jordan, laid a wreath on behalf of Clare GAA at Cusack’s statue at the entrance to Cusack Park, Ennis.

Other publications included Gardening with Seán MacNamara and DVD’s on Clare’s Wonderland a personal account of the Burren and also The Man from Carron and The life and Times of John MacNamara October 1927 to April 2010.

For close on 15 years he had regular features in Our Boys, the Christian Brothers magazine. He also founded the Radio Club and the Gardening Club in 1965. He was elected chairman of the Garden Association of Ireland and as well as competing he also acted as judge at flower shows all over Ireland.

He was a loyal supporter and officer of the Clare Association in Dublin, Muintir an Chlair for over 30 years and at the time of his death was the association’s representative in Clare. He served as its PRO for years.

A highlight for Brother Seán was being named Clare Person of the Year by Muintir an Chlair in 2002. He was presented with his award at the association’s annual dinner dance in the Red Cow hotel before a very big attendance of Clare people and friends.

In making the Clare Association award to Brother Seán, the then chairman of the association, Colm Tobin, said he would struggle for words to describe Seán adequately. “Indefatigable” is one, “infectiously good humoured” is another, ”decent”, “wholesome”, “cineálta”, ”lámhach” would be others. It was for all these reasons and many more that the Clare Association wanted to honour Brother Seán.

Brother Seán acknowledged with gratitude the honour bestowed on him. He said he was delighted to accept the award from his own county, not only for himself, but for his native parish, the MacNamara clan and the Christian Brothers. Like Micheál Cusack, the GAA founder who availed of every opportunity to state that he was from Carron in Co. Clare, he too was proud of his native Kilmurry McMahon which includes the ancient parish of Kilofin. He also referred to many famous people who belonged to Kilmurry McMahon and Co Clare.

He concluded by saying that Micheál Cusack was one of the greatest ever. “Men of Clare, men of Corca Baiscin stand by the man from Carron who deserves to be declared Clare Person of the Century”.

Brother Seán was also proud of the occasion when the parish priest of Kilmurry McMahon and Kilofin, Fr. Tom McGrath, presented him with a special papal award to mark his 76 years in the Christian Brothers. The award, The Cross of Honour, is unique and seldom awarded. It is the highest medal that can be awarded by the Pope to anyone in the Catholic Church. The award was established in 1888 by Pope Leo 13th in honour of his anniversary as a priest.

Brother Seán will also be remembered for his perfect handwriting and art work. He marked special occasions for close friends by sending them colourful cards which he made in his own room in the monastery of Ennis CBS.

One of Co. Clare’s best known personalities, he retired from teaching in 2000 having been associated with Training College Marino (1946). St.Peter and Paul’s Clonmel (1948), Training College Marino (1954), Artane (1955), Monaghan (1958), Parnell Square (1964), St.Joseph’s Drogheda (1972), Trim (1976) St.Patrick’s Marino (1980), St. Joseph’s Galway (1983), Cearnog Pharnell (1984), Tuam (1986), Ballinrobe (1986), Rome (January to June 1987), Tuam (1987) St.David’s Artane (1990), Tullamore (1995) and Roscommon (2000). After his retirement he came to live in Ennis CBS Monastery with the local CBS community from 2003.

Throughout his exciting life he met popes and government leaders but always remained kind and humble and was always in “never better” form.

Born on October 10, 1927, he was a son of Michael and Margaret MacNamara, Kilmurry East, Kilmurry McMahon. He was baptised in the local St. Mary’s church the following day by Fr. Michael Considine.

He attended Drumdigus National School when he was five years old and walked to school with local neighbours which included the Studderts, O’Driscolls and Dalys. His teacher was Mr. Fitzgerald and on May 31,1938 he was confirmed by Bishop Michael Fogarty. He went on to attend the Christian Brothers secondary school in Kilrush and on completion of his studies he went to Baldoyle and Marino in preparation for the teaching profession in the Irish Christian Brothers.

When he was professed he received the name Brother Walter in religious life. He came from a very devout family having three aunts as nuns, an uncle a Holy Ghost priest and another uncle who was provincial of the Christian Brothers in England. His only brother Danny, who died in 2014, had a life long association with Kilmurry McMahon church having been a server there and afterwards the church sacristan for over 50 years. In 1979 he was presented with a Papal Bene Merenti award for his service to the church.

The MacNamara home was also a shop in the 1930’s and 1940’s and was a well known local landmark. When Danny died the family house was later acquired by a very close family friend, Paul Markham from near-by Derryguihy. It is now known as The Rambling House and is preserved in the old style with the original stone floor, open fire place, old dresser, a half-door, tilley lamps and old artefacts looking like it did 80 years ago. It is now a favourite meeting place and was the venue for a memorable night to mark Brother Seán’s 85th birthday. Singers and musicians were among the large attendance some of whom came from near and far. It was organised by Paul Markham who prepared and presented his own Red Book to Brother Seán on his life and times.

Brother Seán’s death at Milford Care Centre, Limerick in the early hours of June 17 after a short illness caused widespread sorrow in Clare, Ireland and further afield.

Reposing was at Daly’s Mortuary Chapel, Ennis on the evening of June 19 for the removal of his remains to Ennis Cathedral. They were met by the Bishop of Killaloe, Bishop Fintan Monahan who joined in the tributes to Brother Seán and by Fr. Tom Ryan, parish priest. Various clubs and organisations which Brother Seán supported were represented including the Clare Association in Dublin by Patricia Moloney. Also there to pay their respects were Liam O’ Looney a long time officer of the Clare Association Dublin and his wife Pat.

Fr. Ryan was chief celebrant of requiem mass on June 20 assisted by Fr. Tom McGrath, Kilmurry McMahon, Fr. David Carroll and Fr. Ger Jones, Ennis and Fr.Martin Shanahan, Inagh. Among the attendance was Bishop Willie Walsh.

It was a moving ceremony which reflected Brother Seán’s love of Irish music, Irish dancing, Irish songs and sean nos singing, all performed by the primary school pupils of Ennis CBS. They also delivered a specially composed song about Brother Seán and his native Co. Clare.

Fr.Ryan referred to the long association between Ennis and the Christian Brothers dating back to 1827. He said Brother Seán always loved change, to meet people and have new experiences. He was delighted in being a Christian Brother and he told him on many occasions that he delighted to be involved with young people as a teacher to inculcate in them a love of hobbies and past times.

“It is difficult in a few words to describe Brother Seán’s achievements. He had a great love for plants and gardening, a love he received from his mother. His love of the Burren nurtured a great interest in wildlife and flowers”, he said.

Brother Seán’s faith was strong, nourished on daily prayer, mass, rosary and stations of the cross and pilgrimages to various places. He was in Ennis Cathedral every Sunday morning with Brother Michael and he tuned into the parish radio for mass each day since Covid. His contribution to life was immense and very fulfilled and always faithful to the charism of Edmond Rice, founder of the Irish Christian Brothers.

After mass a guard of honour was formed by the pupils of Ennis CBS primary school as Brother Seán made his last journey home to his beloved Kilmurry McMahon. As a mark of respect there was a pause in Ennis outside Ennis CBS monastery and again at his former home in Kilmurry McMahon. Graveside prayers at Kilmurry McMahon cemetery were recited by Fr. Tom McGrath in the presence of Fr. Tom Ryan and many friends. Afterwards Paul Markham made the Rambling House open to all of Brother Seán friends.

Sympathy is expressed to Brother Seán’s cousins and to his Christian Brothers in Ennis, Brother Donal, Brother Michael, Brother Dick and Brother Denis.

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Subscribe for just €3 per month

If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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