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25 Jan 2022

Tribute paid to Tullamore 'giant of business and music'

Tribute paid to Tullamore 'giant of business and music'

Tributes paid to Tullamore 'giant of business and music'

Great sadness greeted news of the death recently of well known Tullamore businessman and one of the giants of the local music scene, Peadar Keeley.

The Keeley family have been synonymous with music in the Tullamore region and surrounds for many decades.

For his wife Anne it was a very difficult few days as Anne had seven days previously just said goodbye to her sister Clare, who passed on in Limerick on May 28.

The late Peadar was very much part of old Tullamore and the whole Keeley family had a life long association with DE Williams Ltd where his father, Paddy and Peadar’s brothers and sisters worked at various stages of their lives.

Peadar was born July 2 in 1929 and grew up with his parents, Patrick and Elizabeth and his six siblings, Margaret, Colbert, May, Brendan, Gerald and Alo at Callary Street and later at Clontarf Rd, Tullamore. Peadar was third youngest of the Keeley household and his passing is truly the end of an era and marks the end of that Keeley generation, as he was sadly predeceased by his brothers and sisters.

Upon leaving school Peadar went to work for DE Williams, joining his many family members who worked there. Peadar worked in the Despatch Dept of the Whiskey store and the bonded warehouse at Burgh Quay.

Music played a big part of life in the Keeley household in Clontarf Road and Peadar’s dad, Paddy started up the local Keeley Dance band , and very quickly the Keeley Band was growing in appeal throughout the midlands playing in places like St Mary’s Hall Tullamore , St James’s Hall Kilbeggan and St Joseph’s Hall in Cappincur, to name but a few.

However by the late 1960s there were changes afoot in the music scene with the emergence of the showband craze, Peadar took charge of the band and decided to re-invent it with a couple of the brothers (Brendan , and Colbert) now married and settled and no longer interested in the travelling or late nights, Peadar formed the Royal Aces and brought into the band a couple of really good young local musicians , especially guitar players. Peadar as always was front and centre of the band as the saxophone player, clarinet and vocals. Peadar taught himself the saxophone and modelled himself and playing style on the great dance band leader, Artie Shaw, and he was a very fond admirer of the Glenn Miller Sound, Benny Goodman and indeed Acker Bilk .

Ingenuity and enterprise ran through the veins of the Keeleys. In the 1950’s The Morris family in Church Street Tullamore ran a very successful Drapery and Furniture business . Peadar’s dad Paddy left DE Williams and went to work for Morris’s and was in charge of the furniture end of the business. After working at the furniture for a few short years , Paddy Keeley saw a great opportunity to open his own business and about 1956 the Keeley furniture business was born when Paddy Keeley opened in an open alleyway in O’Connor Square Tullamore.

Peadar packed in his job at DE Williams and joined his dad in the business, and the business went from strength to strength selling both new and second hand furniture. When Paddy Keeley departed this world in 1969 , Peadar’s younger brother Alo joined him in the furniture business and the brothers established a very profitable enterprise. The business expanded and the brothers bought a landmark house adjacent to their furniture store, and with the help of their sisters Margaret and May they started a new enterprise, a very profitable Bed and Breakfast and named it St Martins.

Peadar was a deeply religious man and tried to get to mass as often as he could. Many will remember him as a eucharistic minister and a frequent reader in the Church of the Assumption and a member of the Church Choir .

Peadar Keeley was a devoted family man and a wonderful husband to his wife Anne and children Eithne and Mark at their homes in Spollenstown. Peadar and Anne set up home in Spollanstown near the The Tullamore Harriers after their
marriage in July 1975. After a number of years Peadar , Anne and children moved further down the road in Spollanstown and set up home at 28 The Elms , where they lived until 2017.

Peadar and Anne’s home with their kids was always full of love and compassion, but the sudden death of their daughter, Eithne, in 2017 dealt both parents a very cruel blow.

Peadar was immensely proud of both Eithne and Mark, and he really came to life in the company of his beloved grandchildren: Ellen, Matthew, Freia, Harriet and Toby, and the grandkids in return loved him dearly especially when Anne and Peadar moved home again to beautiful Brittas in Clonaslee.

Peadar and his brothers, Gerald and Alo, delighted in playing music and performing. About the 1970 ‘s both Peadar and Alo frequented the local GAA Centre on the Arden Road for the occasional pint and game of snooker on a Saturday night . There was a piano on the premises and now again both Alo and Peadar would break out into an impromptu singalong. Word quickly spread and within a matter of weeks the numbers swelled to between two to three hundred patrons at the weekly Saturday night singalong . Peadar would thrill the crowd on the clarinet with his rendition of “Stranger on the Shore and he would bring the house down when he belted out his old favourites like . Sweet Caroline, Blueberry Hill and Three Caballeros.

Peadar loved to perform and delighted in his time on the stage. He was a founder member of the Tullamore Brass Band with the late Sean Gilligan whilst in the earlier days he was a regular performer with the St Mary’s Musical Society. He will be best remembered for his standout performance as a judge in the musical ‘Trial by Jury’. and also, later when he played the lead role in “ the Desert Song “.

Peadar and his wife Anne were members of the Michael Moore Cantoiri Singers, and Peadar would play a leading role every Christmas when the Cantoiri would perform hymns and carols at local Churches throughout the midlands . He will long be remembered for his performance of the “Old Rugged Cross” at many funerals and indeed his beautiful rendition of “ The Rose” , a song which he sang many moons ago on the RTE OVER 60’S Talent Competition.

Away from music and family, Peadar loved all sport but especially snooker, fishing and swimming. While he didn’t play snooker like Steve Davis he always dressed like him and was always immaculately turned out for his game . He was instrumental in reviving the St Mary’s Snooker club and one of his great delights was when the Keeley Furniture team won the Business Houses’ League in the 80’s 3 years in a row with captain Peadar anchoring the team at number 5 with a sterling performance in the billiards .

Come the summer months and when time allowed he loved to get out and fish, with favoured spots along the River Brosna at Ferbane, Pullagh and Ballycumber. And if the fish were biting he’d often be seen on the River Barrow over at Portarlington and even down as far as Ballyraggetin Kilkenny.

Another pastime of Peadar’s was swimming and he loved nothing more than to make his weekly visit to the old swimming pool in Tullamore and the highlight of his year would be to join the annual Christmas Day Swim with his great swimming friend, the late Jack Egan of Davitt Street.

Even in latter years, Peadar was still devoted to his music. Famed hotelier, Christy Maye, was always ahead of trends in the business and in the 1980s he asked the brothers, Peadar and Alo, to play the sax and piano in the foyer of the hotel and entertain the newlyweds and their guests as they were arriving at the hotel . Soon other venues were quickly following the lead.

The late Peadar Keeley of Brittas, Clonaslee, and formerly Spollenstown died on June 4, one month short of his 92nd birthday and he passed away peacefully in the company of his loving family. He is survived by his belovedwife Anne; son Mark, daughter-in-law Noeleen, adored grandchildren Ellen, Matthew, Freia, Harriet and Toby; sisters-in-law, brother-in-law, nephews, nieces, relatives and friends. His remains were brought to the Church of the Assumption, Tullamore for funeral mass, and was laid to rest in Clonminch cemetery.

Peadar Keeley has departed this world but his spirit will live long with all his family and friends. Peadar will never be forgotten , because he was one of life’s true gentlemen, with a very simple philosophy , anything you do , do it well. He was a great ambassador for love, life, peace and happiness and leaves behind with his many friends and acquaintances, a treasured trove of musical memories - he was truly the last of a great generation. 

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