The death took place on 30 March 2020 of Sadie Walsh of 8 High Street, Skibbereen.
Sadie, one of the most senior and highly respected citizens of Skibbereen, died peacefully, surrounded by her family, at Skibbereen Residential Care Centre.
With her family on both sides having a long association with Skibbereen, Sadie had a deep knowledge of the town and its people. She had a great gift of recall and her memories of Skibbereen going back to the early 1930s were clear and vivid.
Sadie’s maternal grandfather, Michael McGrath, was originally from Mitchelstown. Having had a long and distinguished career in the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) he retired about 1890 with the rank of Sergeant. Michael settled in Skibbereen after his retirement and took a very active part in municipal affairs in the town.
Sadie’s father, Thomas W. O’Reilly, who was born in Kent in England, was also a sergeant in the RIC and saw service with the Irish Guards in World War I.
Sadie’s parents lived and ran a public house at No. 2 Main Street following her father’s retirement from the RIC.
Sadie (Sarah Patricia) was born in March 1926 at Main Street. She had one brother, Bernard. Her father died suddenly in October 1933 leaving a wife to look after two young children and to run the business.
The public house at No 2 Main Street was affectionately known by locals as ‘Ma Reilly’s’ and was typical of many other small pubs in rural towns at that time. ‘Ma Reilly’s’, right in the heart of the town, always did a good business and Sadie’s mother Mary Ann was a good and convivial hostess.
Sadie attended the Convent of Mercy primary school in Skibbereen and got her secondary education at Murphy’s private school at Ilen Villas, one of a number of private schools in the town. She worked for some years in Young’s Pharmacy in North Street after leaving school but gave up her job when she married James Walsh in June 1951. James’s family also had a long connection with Skibbereen.
Following her mother’s death in 1965, Sadie ran the pub at Main Street for three years but with a young family to raise, she decided to sell the business.
Among her many interests were music and singing. Sadie was a member of the choir at St Patrick’s Cathedral in her younger days. She also took part in many of the musicals staged in the Town Hall by the local Gilbert & Sullivan Society and the Choral Society in the late 1940s and 1950s.
A great family woman and a very good neighbour, Sadie had a friendly and warm personality, was always very pleasant and nice to meet and to talk to. She was a good storyteller and with her knowledge of local happenings her death severs a long link with Skibbereen and its history.
There are very few around now who can recall some of the great characters of Skibbereen like Sadie’s uncle, John Willie McGrath, and how in the early 1930s his infamous Divan appeared overnight on the Bridge. The sudden appearance of the Divan caused some consternation to members of the Urban Council over planning processes and other concerns, but they didn’t worry John Willie one bit. He ran his little shop there, selling sweets, minerals, fruit, cigars and the Sunday newspapers until his untimely death in 1934. John Willie’s Divan might have been controversial, but it lasted a long time and the timber structure was a feature on the bridge until recent years.
Sadie was predeceased by her husband James Walsh, who died in November 1987. She is survived by her loving family, Thomas, Geraldine, James, Rosellen and Tony, son-in-law Adrian Healy, daughters-in-law Bernie, Ann and Mary, her loving grandchildren, relatives, friends and neighbours.
Skibbereen & District Historical Society would like to offer its sincerest sympathy to the family of Sadie Walsh.