The sun shone down on the oldest Cloghan resident Paddy Claffey, Noggus who celebrated his 100th birthday on Saturday last April 17. with greetings coming from far and near for this very special drive by occasion.
Local gardai Padraig Dervan (Banagher), Caroline Flynn, and Shay Kelly (Ferbane) controlled the traffic flow as hundreds turned out to wish Paddy a happy birthday and as they cruised slowly by Paddy’s house, they waved, wished him birthday greetings and passed out cards and presents to this extraordinary man who sat proudly in his wheel chair waving back.
In 1921 the Irish Free State is created with the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, French President Charles de Gaulle married Yvonne Vendroux and closer to home on April 17th Paddy Claffey was born in Noggus, Cloghan. Sharing his birthday with people such as Prince Philip, John Glenn, Astronaut, Lana Turner, Actress, Charles Bronson, Actor and Tommy Cooper, Magician.
Paddy is in remarkable fine fettle and has received his two vaccinations against Covid 19. ‘I was terrified in case I would get the virus’ he said. He speaks highly of his GP Dr. Darragh O’Hare and warns that he wants that mentioned. Although a wheelchair user because of his knees and hips ‘giving trouble’ Paddy would love to be moving about on his feet but said he neglected to look after himself and should had replacements fitted when he was able.
‘When I was 90, I was able to turn the turf and do lots of jobs, but it’s my own fault I’m in the chair’ he said. Paddy has a razor sharp mind and can talk on any subject under the sun. ‘I love to read the papers every day and keep in touch with what’s going on’ he said.
His grandson Liam who lives in England, was unable to be present for the celebrations due to the Covid-19 restrictions, but he sent Paddy an IPad for his birthday so the two can now see and communicate with each other. Paddy can also follows the cattle marts on his IPad and keep up with the prices on offer. In this year of the Pandemic, Paddy who also has a mobile phone, can call members of his family his friends and his neighbours for a chat whenever he wishes.
One of ten children born to Sarah (Flaherty) and Kieran Claffey on April 17th 1921, Paddy recalled his life growing up in Noggus. ‘There was twins in the family but one of them Johnny died when he was a baby. Then my brother Kieran died when he was 25 years old. He hurt himself and was on crutches’ said Paddy. He also recalled when at 13 years of age he took ill with appendicitis and how he craved the doctor not to send him to hospital but a visiting neighbour insisted that he go that night as the pain worsened. As it turned out, the appendicitis burst and he ended up spending a month in hospital where it was touch and go from the poison. ‘Tullamore hospital looked like a big hayshed at that time’ said Paddy.
He recalled how his mother, whom he was ‘very fond of’ was killed from a horse and trap just yards down the road from her home. With so little cars on the roads at that time, this was a dreadful accident for the family and the locality. He was about 28 at the time and remembers it well. ‘There was a carnival in Ferbane and a pick - up truck packed with workers hit the wheel of the trap, the horse fell and the shafts broke. She lived for a few hours but she was in terrible pain and I lay down beside her in the bed here at home to comfort her but she died the next day’ he said. ‘The lads in the truck were all drunk and they ran off across the fields because there was too many of them in the truck’.
Life wasn’t easy for Paddy as he recalled how after leaving Gallen school, he helped his father at home on the farm before going to work on the buildings. Later in life however he went to work with the Board of Works (OPW), and later still he moved to Offaly County Council where he spent the following 24 years. Paddy then with a big smile on his face, announced that he is 36 years retired. ‘I got a lot of hardship sometimes. I remember getting up at 5 o’clock in the morning and milking two cows and when I got home Margaret (his late wife) would have my breakfast and my lunch ready for me and I would cycle about twenty five miles to work and the same coming back’.
Paddy used to hunt and fish and he kept horses for show jumping but it was his love of dancing that brought him in contact with his future wife. ‘There was a group of us and we used to dance the Gallen set and take part in competitions. We won in Athlone one year and in Ferbane too and there was dances in Belmont too sometimes’. ‘ I met Margaret Wheeler from Wexford at a dance in Ferbane’ he says. She was a housekeeper for the bank manager’s family. Margaret however left Paddy waiting for an answer when he asked if he could see her again as she went off to ask her friend all about Paddy. He laughs as he tells the story. ‘She was a great woman and could cook anything and she made butter and she was very good to me’ he said. It’s very obvious that Paddy misses Margaret since she passed away sixteen years ago but he and the family believe she is looking after him still. ‘We prayed the Rosary every night and I continue to say it now and pray for everyone’ he says.
Paddy believes that the fact that he never drank or smoked, worked hard and had a good wife who minded him well, is the secret to his longevity. ‘All the family are so good to me’ he says ‘No matter what the family wanted growing up, I got it for them’ while his daughter Brid agreed and added ‘he’s still so good to us, he’s absolutely the most wonderful man, a father and grandfather and great granddad, I don’t know what we would do without him’.
Paddy has a great memory and his daughter Brid recalls how he wrote a book for his 90th birthday with the help of Frances Browner (writer) and his grand-niece Orla Cantwell. The book recalls many stories from Paddy’s long life growing up in Noggus and now how this book of memories is cherished by his family. Many congratulations to Paddy and continued good health in the years ahead to this most extraordinary gentleman.