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The late Tomsie O Sullivan of Lahinch RNLI who received a Gold medal to mark his 50 years with the RNLI. He died at his home on Thursday. Photograph by John Kelly

Lahinch Mourns Death of Community Leader


PEOPLE in Lahinch are mourning the loss of a community leader following the passing of Tomsie O’Sullivan.

The long serving community activist died at his residence in Doonboy, Station Road, Lahinch, on St Patrick’s Day.

After reposing in Lahinch Church on Friday, his Funeral Mass took place on Saturday morning before burial afterwards in the Old Cemetery, Ennistymon.

While Tomsie was involved with numerous community organisations for decades, he is synonymous with the RNLI, who presented him with a Long Service Award for reaching 58 years with the organisation last September.

The RNLI was very much a family affair as Tomsie’s children used to help him with church gate collections and flag days.


In an interview with the Clare Champion last year, Tomsie estimated the Lahinch branch used to raise between €6,000 to €8,000 annually over a 28-year period.

Born in Main Street, Tomsie’s father, Thomas, who was a carpenter fell off a roof in the early fifties and never fully recovered.

This prompted Tomsie (16) to leave Ennistymon CBS before Fifth Year to become an apprentice and take over his father’s carpentry business.

After completing a part-time course in carpentry, he worked for McNamara Builders, Lisdoonvarna building a scheme of houses in Spanish Point and progressed over the years to become a foreman and later clerks of works.

In 1962, the first RNLI committee had Barney Higgins as chairman and Tomsie as secretary with support from other locals such as Michael Vaughan Senior.

While the chairman had to step down after a five-year period, this stipulation didn’t cover the secretary’s position, which was one of the factors that led to Tomsie remaining in this position almost 60 years later.

Even though the make up of the committee changed over the years, at every annual general meeting the refrain was the same – “Tomsie, you will stay on as secretary”.

The initial focus of the committee was on church gate collections and fundraising ventures. A few tragedies alerted the need for have access to a lifeboat.

Tomsie recalled the group was able to assist in rescues for any boat that got into trouble along the West coast of Clare. Tomsie and three other group members were qualified marine radio operators and they purchased hand held radios.

In the early sixties, the group met Clare County Council officials to express concern about lifeguard cover during the summer months. This helped secure water safety training in Lahinch swimming pool, which facilitated three lifeguards for the pool and beach.

In 1952, he got involved in An Tostal, a Bord Fáilte venture to extend the tourism season and set up a local group to run this event.

Tomsie also got involved in numerous community organisations in North Clare such as social services in Lahinch that later set the seeds for Clarecare, helped set up the Friends of Ennistymon Hospital, which prevented its closure and over the years raised for a major upgrading and provision of a daycare centre in 1979 after collecting an estimated €3 million during a 28-year period.

He spent six years on the board of the National Combat Poverty Agency.

Predeceased by his loving wife Marie, deeply regretted by his loving family, son Owen, daughters Selina, Joan, and Helen, grandchildren Alannah, Jack, Susan, Milly, Siabh and Ellsie, sons-in-laws, daughter-in-law, nieces, nephews, relatives and extended family. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.


Dan Danaher

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