West Donegal community to remember local man with a big heart

Pobail le Chéile in Falcarragh to present first Manus McClafferty Community Award this weekend

West Donegal community to remember local man with a big heart

Manus Joe McClafferty

The Falcarragh community this month will remember a local man who made friendships around the world, and beyond.

Manus Joe McClafferty was well known throughout his home parish for his unflagging community spirit, his generosity and his enthusiastic volunteerism.

This weekend, the first annual Manus McClafferty Community Award will be presented in his memory, and this week the winners of an art competition at the local national school he attended are to be announced. 

The first annual Manus McClafferty Community Award will be presented on Saturday in an evening that will also include music performed by musician friends of his, refreshments donated by local businesses and reminiscences from friends of Manus, who passed away at age 62 after a very brief illness on February 19th last year.

“There’s a lot to be learned from Manus’s life,” said Rosemary Grain, administrator and information worker at Pobail le Chéile, the community development project in Falcarragh where Manus was a vital presence for 14 years. “He was a man with a big heart who gave so much back to people.”

While Manus lived all his life in Falcarragh, the ham radio enthusiast made national headlines in 1991 when he made contact with Russian cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev, who was on board the Soviet Space Station Mir at the time. During the turbulent collapse of the Soviet Union that year, Manus was said to have kept the cosmonaut briefed on news from his home country.

Later, the friendship between the cosmonaut and the Falcarragh man – “with embellishments”, as Manus described it – formed the basis of the Irish film, Mir Friends.

The evening for Manus will be held at 8pm, on February 25th at Pobail le Chéile in Falcarragh, and will include a screening of the film Mir Friends.

Manus was a member of Pobail le Chéile’s committee and volunteered several days a week at the Siopa Pobail as well as at other events. He was a regular member of the Cumann Cairdeas active age group.

“People still come into the shop and they still miss him and they still talk about him,” Rosemary said. “To this day he is spoken about quite a lot.” Local artist Maria Gasol painted a portrait of Manus that hangs in the shop.

After Manus’s death, Pobail le Chéile received messages of condolences from people around the world who had met Manus and remembered him fondly.

A man from Melbourne, Australia, wrote this: “Every time we met, no matter how busy I thought I was, an involuntary smile would cross my face. I think I am not unique in that regard. I suspect he had that effect on everyone he encountered.”

Rosemary is to present awards to winners of the art contest at Murroe National School, the primary school Manus attended. The theme of the competition was “The sky at night”, reflecting Manus’s countless ham radio communications.

She said she believed Manus’s legacy could inspire young people.

“He was kind to people,” Rosemary said. “That was the biggest message I would take from Manus.”

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