The recent death in Edinburgh of John (Dinnie) Boyle of Lower Keadue saw the passing of one of Keadue's most faithful and influential sons.
In the 1950s John was one of a group of bright, able and talented young men who brought the name of Keadue to the attention of the whole of County Donegal due to the success of Keadue Rovers and the Keadue Band.
For youngsters of my generation growing up and hearing of their achievements they were truly all heroes.
Though John lived most of his life in Edinburgh part of his heart never left Keadue. Even in the last few months when I would visit him, the conversation would inevitably get around to Keadue Rovers and the Keadue Band. He was always delighted to hear that Keadue remains the great nursery of football in West Donegal and that the Keadue Band is still marching.
John would often reminisce on how the first organised football league came into being, the North West Donegal League, through the initiative of Keadue Rovers.
The club had been founded in 1896 and were prominent in what could accurately be referred to as the ‘Challenge Match’ era with many memorable games among teams from many of the townlands and villages in the west of the county. Especially memorable were the great matches between Keadue and the great teams from Arranmore Island.
However, due to the initiative of some of the leading lights from Keadue Rovers, including John, in the autumn of 1952 organised league soccer finally came into being in Donegal. John would share with me how he visited the FAI headquarters in Merrion Square, in Dublin accompanied by his uncle, Patty Boyle, then recently retired from a legal career in New York, as part of the process to formally affiliate the new league.
Due to the advent of this new league in the North West other leagues were founded in South West, South East and North East Donegal. Keadue would overcome Arran Hibs in the North West final, then beat St. Mary's Ballyshannon, champions of the South West and their final victory in 1953 was at home at Central Park, defeating Lifford Celtic, champions of the South East.
One final match remained and that was against Moville Celtic, champions of the North East. However, that final match did not take place as planned. In the 1950s seasonal emigration was a major part of life in the Rosses and virtually all of Keadue's pool of players took part in this annual migration to the building sites, coal mines and farms of Britain. So, the final match was postponed until April 1954 when Moville finally brought Keadue's great run to an end. John and his brothers, Packadie and Anthony had all played a major part in that glorious run of victories.
The other great Keadue institution in which John's heart was forever embedded was, of course, the Keadue Band.
John came from a family steeped in the tradition of the Keadue Band. John's father, Dinnie Donnachadh Rua, was a leading flute player and band master until 1938 and Dinnie's cousin, Willie John Ward was the original band master of the new Keadue Band that marched for the first time on St. Patrick's Day 1888.
As a child it was always made clear to me that the music of the Keadue Band was always considered outstanding well before competition arrived. So, it was no great surprise that our band would excel when competition came with the first contests in Dungloe from 1953 onwards.
John and his brothers, Packadie, Anthony and Manus were all part of that great Keadue Band. Indeed, each year on the day before St. Patrick's Day, John's sisters Hannah and Madge would help their father, Dinnie unfurl the banner which always lived in the Boyle home to ensure that it was in good condition for the march to St. Mary's, Kincasslagh the next morning, St. Patrick's morning.
John returned to be part of the band's more recent and unprecedented run of success which began with victories at the Twin Towns Festival Band Contest in Ballybofey on Sunday, July 23, 1978 and the Mary From Dungloe a week later on Sunday, July 30. It had been 21 years since Keadue had won in Dungloe.
I still remember that evening as we assembled at Meenbanad Cope for the traditional march down to Keadue with the cup. John and I stood together for a few seconds to process our joy and amazement that this was really happening all over again after a lapse of 21 years. He would often speak with me about the importance of local traditions and culture in a community and the importance of always striving to ensure they continued.
At the Requiem Mass in St. John the Baptist Parish Church in Edinburgh on the day of John's funeral, Fr. Gerry Hand, a close friend of the Boyle family and a frequent visitor to Lower Keadue spoke of John's deep faith.
It was a faith John had learned as a child in Lower Keadue among a caring and faith filled community who rallied around when John's mother Annie died in 1938, when John was only seven, leaving his father, Dinnie with seven children all under ten.
He also spoke of John's qualities in helping and supporting charities and individuals during his life in Scotland and living out the spirit of the Beatitudes which was the Gospel reading from St. Matthew's Gospel that day.
Fr. Gerry then spoke of John's success as a businessman which was at least partly due to the fact that John knew how to get on with people.
Like so many other young lads from the Rosses and West Donegal John left home in his mid-teens to work in Scotland to help support the family at home and he was followed by his brother, Packadie a couple of years later. Initially they worked on farms in Perthshire but John would later progress to the Hydro Electric tunnels in the North of Scotland where so many of the Tunnel Tigers made their name.
Working there John would develop skills in the use of explosives and these skills would play a very important part in installing the anchorage cables of the first Forth Road Bridge while John was employed there in the late 1950s. He would start his own business, JJ Boyle Ltd in 1970 which employed many of his Donegal compatriots completing contracts for the Post Office and BT. A new company, C-Plan was formed in 2001 which continues to work in the Telecoms sector.
John married Kathleen Ward from Acres at Sacred Heart, Lauriston in Edinburgh in September, 1959. Denis was born in 1960 and Jim in 1963. Jim's twin brother, Kevin sadly lived for only three days. Kathleen sadly predeceased John in August 2020.
John is survived by Denis and Jim; daughters- in- law, Linda and Tracey; grandchildren, Katy Jane, John Joe, Anna, Clare, Sara, Tony, Kate and Mairi; brothers, Packadie and Anthony in Keadue, and Manus in Glasgow and his sister, Madge, also in Glasgow. John’s other two sisters, Bridget and Hannah, died in 1960 and 2006 respectively.
Go ndéana Dia a mhaith ar a anam usal.
- Paddy Ferry
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