02 Jul 2022

'A Century of Memories' - Offaly man celebrates his 100th birthday

A remarkable milestone

Tim Hanlon of Ballycowan, a proud Offaly man and GAA stalwart, recently celebrated his 100th birthday with family, friends and neighbours in Our Lady’s Consolation Nursing Home, Tullamore where he is now a resident for the past three years.

Tim is still hale and hearty and doing very well health wise. He was born in Ballycowan on Saturday, October 27, 1917 and he
has lived all of his life there. He was the third child born to Michael and Ellen Hanlon, nee Lee who lived across the Grand Canal from the family home.

He had two older sisters, Mary Connolly (Tullybeg, Rahan) and Bridgie Fox (Kinnegad), 4 younger brothers, Pat, (Connecticut, USA), Johnny (Horeselap), Mick (The Fingerboard), Sheamus (Ballycowan) and Katie Dolan (Derrinlough, Birr) was his youngest sister.

He went to school in the old school in Ballykilmurray which is now a very active Community Centre. His teachers were Miss Killeavy and Mrs. Horan, he recalls.

Tim left education after primary school like most other children during that time. Very few children went to Secondary School and nobody even knew what a university was when Tim was a young fellow.

As a young boy he worked milking cows for Keegan’s who lived near Tullamore. He worked before he went to school in the
mornings. He often told the story of how one morning Mrs. Keegan caught him taking a drink of the milk when he had finished the milking and she accused him of doing it for some time. She intended to deduct the cost of the milk from his wages, which was 10 shillings a week. Tim gave in his notice on the spot and told Mrs. Keegan where to go.

On his way home he was thinking of how he was going to tell his mother that he had given up his milking job.
At that time, the Council had started making the road from Rahan to Tullamore so on his way home he went into the hut where the Council workers were having a tea break and he asked if there were any jobs going in the Council and they took him on drawing stones to the new road.

It was during his time working for the Council that he got his first cheque which was the very first cheque to be seen in the Hanlon household. He was the proud young lad going home to his mother and giving her a look at his first cheque.

As an adult he was a contractor ploughing and tilling land for the local farmers during the compulsory tillage years of 1940 – 1948 which was also during the Emergency. The Department of Agriculture at the time dictated that all holders of
10 acres or more had to till one tenth of their land and Tim did his bit to ensure the local farmers complied with the Department’s rule.

Later on he bought a threshing mill and threshed corn for farmers in the neighbourhood, all around Rahan, Ballycumber, The Island and further afield. The day of the threshing on a farm was a big day in the life of the farming community and needed the help of all the neighbours. Many a fine threshing day was had in Ballycowan and other farms in the locality.

Himself and his brother Johnny were the very best of friends all of their lives and worked very closely together along with the help of their brother James. From early on Johnny did the land reclaiming and Tim followed him by then ploughing and tilling and sowing the reclaimed land.

Tim married Nora Conroy of The Island, Ballycumber in November, 1955, at 38 years of age and had six children, one of
whom died as an infant aged two months old.

Tim was well known as an enterprising young fellow and a hard worker, often seen ploughing and working on the land until very late at night. He was the first in the area to buy a tractor in the 1940s.

Tim was a proud GAA man and played hurling with Ballinamere as a young lad and later became President and Chairman of Ballinamere GAA for a number of years during the late 1930s and into the 1940s. During those early years GAA meetings were held in The Loft in O'Brien’s House in Ballinamere and Ted O'Brien wrote in recent years about many activities that took place in The Loft during those early years.

Three people were very active in promoting hurling at that time; Matty Whelehan, Danny Leonard and Tim Hanlon. In 1944 Ballinamere won the Junior County Hurling Championship and went on to win the intermediate Championship the following year. Great credit is due to that generation of players. Rarely did they have more than three subs on the sidelines at any match in what was then a scarcely populated area. Often niggly injuries to players had to be ignored.

It must be remembered that these were depressing times, with war restrictions, low earnings and widespread unemployment. The final celebration in O’ Brien’s Loft took place in 1959 for the Ballinamere Hurlers who won the Junior Hurling Championship that year. This was the same year that electricity arrived in Ballinamere.

On the occasion of his birthday recently, a mass was celebrated by Fr. Rory and Fr. Eamonn O’ Brien, and Ballinamere GAA presented Tim with a lovely clock to mark the occasion of his 100th birthday.

Tim was also very much involved in the local IFA organisation and was a founding member of Clonaslee Cooperative Society which has since been taken over by Glanbia. History, especially local history was his passion, and he told many a story about the Black and Tans and the civil war.

His most recent project was the work carried out on Kilbride graveyard and the introduction of the annual mass and blessing of the graves in Kilbride Church and Graveyard.

He never strayed too far from home and never left Ireland. He was never on an airplane, a thing he said he never missed. The trip to visit his sister Bridgie in Kinnegad was a major excursion. The old Ford Prefect car would get a checking for water and oil before the journey would begin.

Sunday evening was his evening off when the family all take off to visit his wife’s family, the Birmingham’s in Kilpatrick. Many a good argument over politics took place between him and Mick Bermingham as they were on often on opposite sides of the political fence. Tim was a passionate member of Fine Gael all his life and especially followed the politics of Oliver J Flanagan who lived in Mountmellick.

Oliver J was written to on many occasions seeking his help with many different challenges faced in the local area. However
in later years Tim enjoyed reading about Brian Cowan in the local and national newspapers and was delighted when he became Minister for Finance and later Taoiseach.

Tim and his family, friends and neighbours enjoyed mass in the Consolation Nursing Home with food and music afterwards to
celebrate the big birthday milestone. Many of Tim’s nieces and nephews travelled for the occasion including many from overseas.

He family thanked everyone who joined Tim on this great occasion. They wish him many more years of great health and
happiness and thank the residents and staff in the Consolation Nursing Home for making the big birthday celebrations so
memorable and all of their dedicated care to both Tim and his brother James who is also a resident in the nursing home.

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