Posted by Bernard J. Halligan on August 19, 2008 at 15:30:05:
First of all all let me say God rest his soul. Fr.Shannon was a great man. I would like to share with you my story of the effect this man has had on my life to date. Apart from my own beloved father, James Halligan, Fr. Shannon had the biggest impact on my life, to date.
I left Castlebar in 1961 to go on a 2 week holiday with my mother Delia, to Birkenhead, England. I never returned from this holiday as it turns out because my family ended up immigrating to England to start a new life there. I was devestated at the time. I had just completed a year at St.Gerald's college and I had wanted to return and finish the five years there but my mother would not allow this as she wanted the family to stay together. Well, I remember making a promise to myself that I would NEVER settle permanently in England. I was a member of the church choir where Fr.Shannon ( a very young priest at that time) was the choir leader. He was a pleasure to work with. He treated everyone with the same respect regardless of your financial status. He got the very best out of all the lads in the choir and he himself had a wonderful voice.
We used to go around the town at Christmas time singing carols and this is one of my most treasured memories. He also got us to perform a couple of concerts in the town hall. We felt like we were "stars of stage and screen". Our moments of fame.
Now, I returned to Castlebar for the first time for a holiday in about 1964 and one of the first things I did was to cycle down to the parish house to visit my "friend" Fr.Shannon. I will NEVER forget the reception he gave me. It was like "one of his lost sheep had come back to the fold". He sat me down and offered me some refreshments and we chatted for about 2 hours. Then, just as I was getting ready to leave he posed the following question to me: "Bernard, he said, have you taken to the evil drink yet, in England" "No father, I responded". "Well sure you might as well sign the pledge then, says he". "What's that I said" and he went on to explain to me about how to become a pioneer. Well, he signed me up there and then. Then, just as I was leaving, he handed me something in my hand. I didn't bother to look at it until I was on my way home and when I did check, I found it was a five pound note. I couldn't believe it. "A FIVE POUND NOTE" a fortune.
Well, here it is year 2008 and to this day I have never "knowingly" allowed any alcohol to pass through my lips.
Now, abouy three years ago when I returned from Canada, where I have lived for the past 36 years, to attend the 75th anniversary of McHale Road, I met up with my great friend Fr Shannon for the first time since that meeting in 1964, at the reception dinner at the Traveller's Friend hotel. When I heard that Fr. Shannon was in attendance I made a point of seeking him out, only to be told by a friend of mine, that he was also looking for me.
When I finally caught up with him I took the opportunity to tell him what an impact he had made on my life. He hadn't realized this but I went on to explain to him about the time he signed me up as a pioneer, and the fact that I had kept it up all these years, all because of him. He was thrilled to hear this and I ended my last conversation by saying to him "Fr. Shannon, I believe that in everyone's life there are people who enter in and in many ways these people can have a profound impact, some unfortunately can be negative, but also it can be very positive. You, I said had a very positive affect on my life, and I want to thank you for that" I also told him that it was so nice to be able to meet up with him again after all these years and be able to share this message with him. He was thrilled to hear this and actually got "quite choked up". We again said our goodbyes, and that was the last time I spoke to or saw him.
May God rest his soul and if there is a heaven (as I know there is) then Mon Thomas Shannon will be sitting there in a special pew, reserved for the most faithful of servants,
Fr.Shannon was "true hero" in my life.
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