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A huge crowd attended Ennis Cathedral for Jack Heaslip's funeral this morning.

Ennis lays one of its legends to rest days after his 96th birthday

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THE town of Ennis lost one its legends this week with the passing of local business man Jack Heaslip a day after he celebrated his 96th birthday.

Jack, who was originally from Knocktopher, Kilkenny, was well-known throughout Ennis and Clare with Heaslip’s shop a fixture of O’Connell Street since 1960.

Speaking at his funeral mass at Ennis Cathedral on Thursday morning, Jack’s friend Bishop Willie Walsh said that while it was a sad occasion, Jack had lived a very full life. “We gather, I think, in both sadness and in gladness. In sadness at the departure of a dear friend, but in gladness too, to have known such a lovely, gentle person, who enriched so many of our lives. Gladness too, I think, at the manner of his departure having just celebrated in song and story his 96th birthday. We thank God for his truly blessed and full life.”

Delivering a eulogy, his son Sean said Jack had been a very warm person. “If you met him and spoke to him he never forgot you, you were a friend for life. He loved his close friends and family so much, and I’d like to thank family and friends for being so good to him. But whenever I say that to his friends and family, they say he’s the one who was so good to them.”

Even the night before he died, Jack was still in very good form. “He celebrated his 96th birthday on Monday and sang The Rose of Mooncoin and he ended with a Tipperary song, The Galtee Mountain Boy. Dad, we will never forget you, you will always be in our hearts. You were amazing, just amazing.”

Since coming to Ennis in the 1950s Jack and his family have been active members of Éire Óg and athis funeral mass this Thursday the club formed a guard of honour outside Ennis Cathedral.

Tributes have been paid to the popular business man since news of his passing emerged this week. His good friend John O’Connor of Custy’s Music described Jack’s loss as “monumental”.

The late Jack Heaslip pictured in his shop on O’Connell Streeet in Ennis. Photograph by Yvonne Vaughan.

“We have known Jack all our lives really, since we moved here 16 years ago. He was a lovely gentle soul. He was a man who would encourage you to do nice things because there was such a kind of beauty attached to him. His simplicity just made you feel as if you wanted to be a better person. His loss is monumental but the memories will be so cherished.”

Ennis parish priest Fr Tom Ryan said Jack was “a very valued member of the Ennis parish community. He was a daily mass goer and at 7.40am every morning he strolled down the street to mass. He was just one of the most fantastic people, a thorough gentleman. I knew him from my childhood going to school, you would pass the shop every morning and he would have a word for you.

“He was certainly one of the legends. We will miss him in the Cathedral every morning, he had a gentle presence. Right through to the moment he died he lived a life and lived it fully.”

Expressing sympathy to the Heaslip family Mayor of Ennis Councillor Clare Colleran Molloy said Jack’s loss “is a sad day for Ennis”.

“He was a stalwart of the town, always there in the shop on O’Connell Street. He is a loss to Ennis and the town is saddened by his passing.

“Just a couple of weeks ago I was asked as Mayor of Ennis to say a couple of words at the Michael Cusack statue to mark the 175th anniversary of Michael Cusack’s birth.

“There was Jack Heaslip, absolutely in fine form, out and about as he always was. He was just an amazing man and I want to extend my condolences to his family and all of his loved ones. The town is mourning the loss of Jack Heaslip.”

His beloved Éire Óg has also paid tribute with Assumpta Hehir PRO of the club saying, “We were very sad to learn of Jack Heaslip’s passing. All at Éire Óg Inis offer our deepest sympathies to his family, friends and associates from Heaslips shop on O’Connell Street.”

Jack joined Éire Óg as a player in the 1950s having moved to Ennis with his wife Eilis from their hometown of Knocktopher, County Kilkenny. He won a senior hurling medal with the club in 1956 and a Clare Cup medal in 1959.

“After he hung up his boots in the ‘60s, he continued with the club in a variety of roles including selector, coach, club officer and President.

“Jack’s playing career with Éire Óg was succeeded by his sons Seán and Francis who played from underage to senior, while his grandchildren Colin Heaslip and Caoimhin Fitzgerald lined out underage and junior.

“Still playing with the club are granddaughter Eadaoin Fitzgerald, who togs out for camogie and ladies football teams, and grandson Aaron Fitzgerald, “a vital cog in our senior hurling and football squads,” she added.

One of Jack’s teammates from the ‘50s, Des Neylon, recalls memories of the ‘60s and the many times Jack emptied the fruit from his van and refilled with team members-delivering them to play matches in various parts of the county.

“Jack was generous to no end, his family have been associated with the club since his arrival to Ennis in the 50s, he is very popular in GAA circles and as a businessman in the town”.

Jack never forgot his roots, in the ‘50s Éire Óg travelled to a tournament in Knocktopher at his invite and he continued to support Kilkenny to the end.

The funeral mass takes place at 11am this Thursday at Ennis Cathedral with burial afterwards at Drumcliffe cemetery. The funeral will also be streamed live on the parish website.

Jack is predeceased by his wife Eilis and granddaughter Gilly. He will be sadly missed by his beloved family and friends, including his children Therese, Seán, Francis and Rosalie, in-laws Kevin, Margaret, Pat and Marie, grandchildren Miriam, Niamh, Colin, Caitriona, Cian, Caoimhín, Aaron, Eadaoin, Alan and Jack, great grandchildren, nieces, nephews, relatives, neighbours and great friends.

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