The death took place on Sunday morning, December 3, 2017 of Richie Cottom of Skibbereen.
Richie had been ill for ten months or so and, while sickness had diminished him physically, he remained alert and as sharp as ever until about a week before he died.
Richie Cottom was of Skibbereen – he knew everyone in Skibbereen and everyone in Skibbereen knew him. He was a character, and a great one at that. Maybe in Skibbereen he was the last of the great characters – they’re just not around anymore.
The extended Cottom family was a very prominent one in Skibbereen for generations, playing an important part in the commercial, cultural and social life of the town. The Cottoms were associated with crafts and trades in the town going back to the early 1900s. For people of a certain age it’s difficult to believe that there’s no Cottom now living in Bridge Street or Upper Bridge Street, or indeed in Skibbereen at all.
Richie’s grandfather, William Cottom of Upper Bridge Street, was a joiner in the Schull and Skibbereen Tramway and was recognised as a craftsman of high ability. William died in 1936 leaving behind a young widow, seven sons and two daughters. A brother of his, Michael, also worked on the Railway, he was a foreman carpenter at the Railway Yard in Skibbereen. Richie’s grandmother, Bridget, also a native of Skibbereen, survived her husband by many years and died in March 1962.
Denis Cottom, Richie’s father, was a well-known tailor and lived and carried out his business at 54 Bridge Street. He died a relatively young man in October 1958. Other members of the Cottom family were associated with the trades of men’s hairdressing and shoemaking in Skibbereen.
Richie’s mother was a member of the Levis family which also has strong links with Skibbereen for several generations.
Richie Cottom was born on January 23, 1950 and as a boy lived at 54 Bridge Street. It was after his father died in 1958 that Richie, his brother Joe and their mother moved to Oldcourt. Having finished school, he worked as a storeman at the Ilen Garage, North Street, until it closed in 1984. Richie was also a collector for Cork Polio Pools and covered a serious number of miles on his Honda 50 collecting the weekly subs.
Richie had an encyclopaedic knowledge of and a great passion for sport. His favourites were horse racing and soccer, but he was completely ecumenical when it came to sport – he loved it all.
He was for a long time associated with Skibbereen Dynamos AFC. His brother Joe managed the team during the 1970s and early 1980s and Richie was an assistant, as such, doing bits of everything, most notably acting as linesman at practically every Dynamos game.
They organised seven-a-side tournaments, street leagues and pretty much ran the Dynamos club. Joe really kept the club going; he was chairman, and served in most other administrative capacities, often dipped into his own pocket to see the club out of another crisis, he and Richie lined the pitch at Schull Road for home games, and there’s no doubt that the club would not have survived in the 1970s but for Joe and Richie.
Joe died suddenly in March 1982, tragically young, aged only 42 years, on the sideline at a soccer game. Dynamos were playing West End United in Blackrock, Cork, when he was taken ill and passed away. Richie continued his involvement with the club for many years after that.
We mentioned that Richie was a character. He loved the craic and was good craic himself. He had an outstanding repertoire of songs and party pieces, his favourite songs being ‘Red is the Rose’, ‘The Old Home Town,’ and ‘When A Child is Born’. There were many others.
But his trademark performance, the one he will always be remembered for was his commentary on the Cheltenham Gold Cup. It was quite brilliant! It was a performance unique to him and completely his own. It was pure genius! Legend! He performed it countless times on home soil, but also delighted crowds in England, Boston and other places where his performances invariably brought the house down. He could hold his own in any company.
Richie attended the Cheltenham Racing Festival on a number of occasions. In soccer, he was a Manchester United and Celtic fan. One of his favourite trips was to Roy Keane’s testimonial in Old Trafford.
If you were in Richie’s good books, you were okay, but it was also easy enough to fall out with him at times. He could be very cranky when he wanted to be, could try the patience of a saint and seemed to thrive on a good argument. You might fall out with him, but not for long – you couldn’t stay cross with him. He had that great knack of being able to get away with things that no one else would!
Richie became ill early in 2017. He spent the subsequent 10 months in Bantry Hospital and in Skibbereen Community Hospital, where he was cared for. And how well he was looked after – he was given outstanding care by medical and other staff at both hospitals. Particularly in Skibbereen Community Hospital during the latter part of his illness, Richie was looked after with great affection and tenderness.
During his illness, Richie’s friends stood by him. He had very good friends. They enjoyed the craic with him over the years, as many did, but when he was in trouble they rallied around him as true friends should. He wasn’t left wanting for anything during his illness and was very rarely, if ever, without someone to talk to or just to sit with. When it was clear that his time was getting shorter, friends sat with him around the clock. One of his buddies sat with him all night for seven consecutive nights, just to keep him company. When Richie finally passed away on Sunday morning, December 3, he was surrounded by his good friends – there to the end!
Requiem Mass for Richie Cottom was celebrated by Very Rev. Michael Kelleher, Adm., at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Skibbereen, on Thursday December 7th. It was a beautiful Mass, a lovely tribute. Some of Richie’s friends sung the mass, with Brendan and Joe Leahy being the main contributors. During the Mass, Brendan Leahy and Tim McCarthy delivered a very moving and humours eulogy, capturing the essence of Richie with great eloquence.
Following Mass, a lone piper led the cortege from St. Patrick’s Cathedral to Abbeystrowry Cemetery where Richie was laid to rest alongside his sister Christine who had died in infancy. Christine was Richie’s younger sister and it had always been his wish to be buried with her. Derry Moynihan played a few tunes on the banjo at the graveside in a final tribute. Richie got a great send-off, one he would have been very proud of.
Richie is survived by his two sisters Anna (Weddell) and Mary (Sheikh), brothers-in-law Keith and Ikhlaq, sister-in-law Jackie (Cottom), nephews, nieces, grandnephews, grandnieces and other relatives.
He is also remembered by his many friends in Skibbereen and beyond. Richie loved Skibbereen, everything in and about it. It is only right that Skibbereen would remember Richie and the Cottom family and their long association with the town.