Last month we arranged a holiday in Portugal and to meet up with my cousin Dermot we booked a few days in Armacao de Pera, a little seaside town close to the village of Pera where Dermot lived. There is a wonderful Portuguese sandy beach close by where the local fishermen drive their boats straight on to the sand and then get the boats pulled up by tractor. It’s very exciting to watch.
Dermot was one of my 26 first cousins and the eldest son of my mother’s sister Felicity. She was born a Daly and lived in Blackrock in Cork before getting married to Edward Staveacre an English stockbroker who worked in Manchester but lived in Buxton Derbyshire.
Dermot’s family used to visit us sometimes when we were holidaying in Ballybunion and my first memory of him was about 60 years ago when the two of us played golf on the Old Course. I think the green fee for two weeks of golf at that time was about £2. We had the course to ourselves as this was well before Tom Watson discovered Ballybunion on his way to the British Open. I remember that we played until we had lost all the golf balls we had and then looking for some more so that we could continue.
Mary and I met up with Dermot for lunch and whilst he looked great, as always, he did admit that he was a bit down in himself as he had a dose of shingles for the past while which he just didn’t seem to be able to shake off. He had a bit of trouble eating his lunch that day and when he left us we were quite concerned about him. He did phone us again at our hotel before we left and indeed again when we got home on the June bank holiday and we were delighted that he seemed to be much more positive.
Photo of Mary with Dermot with his little dog on our visit last month
On the following Friday morning I received a phone call on my mobile and saw that it was Dermot calling and was delighted to hear from him again. Sadly however it wasn’t Dermot, it was his friend Anita calling me from Dermot’s phone to tell me that he had passed away during the night. We had met Anita on our recent visit as she had driven Dermot to the restaurant for lunch as his car was in the garage.
And so last Thursday Mary and I and my brother George travelled out again to Pera for Dermot’s funeral. Yes it was a very sad occasion but also very moving and in fairness to the Priest and all the other local people involved it was all arranged quite beautifully. I was asked to say a few words on behalf of his Irish cousins and felt very privileged to speak about Dermot and how good he had been to me and my family on our regular visits over the years to The Algarve.
After the lovely service in the church where a few very sad local people said some lovely words about Dermot we walked behind his coffin to the graveyard. It was a long enough walk in the 35 degree heat of a Portuguese afternoon.
As we walked a number of people came up to me to share their memories of Dermot.
You see Dermot was someone who had led a very chequered life. In his earlier days he was an alcoholic and at one time was in a very bad place. I remember him telling us that at one time he was outside an off licence at 7 o clock in the morning waiting for it to open so that he could buy a bottle of whiskey and drink it before his breakfast! Eventually he went into treatment and turned his life around. When he recovered from his treatment, he became an alcoholic and drug counsellor, first of all in the North of Portugal and in later years in Pera in the Algarve.
As we walked to the graveyard and then back to his apartment that he had only just moved into, many people told us their story about how Dermot had helped to save their lives or the lives of their loved ones. One woman said her son was a drug addict and gone for help to Dermot and was now clean for 14 years. Another young women said that he had saved their marriage and her husband’s life as he had helped him to stop drinking. Another women talked about going with him on his various visits to the local prison where he used to visit and counsel the convicts who were alcoholics and drug addicts so that when they got out they would hopefully stay away from the source of their problems. We never really heard this from Dermot himself as he never really talked about how he had helped so many people to turn their lives around.
Everybody gathered in that little church in Pera seemed to have a positive story to tell about Dermot. Everybody gathered there, his friends and family all seemed to be just so proud of Dermot and the wonderful work did. I have to admit also that on the walk back from the graveyard we just happened to pass a local establishment and please forgive us Dermot, but we had the most wonderful cold pints of beer we ever did have…well it was a very hot afternoon…
Going to the Algarve in the future will seem very strange without Dermot being there to welcome us. We will however always remember him fondly and the lovely music concerts he brought us to and in particular we will remember one absolutely marvellous evening when he got Cliff Richard to play a concert after a meal in the nearby Sheraton Hotel. Dermot was raising funds for the Old Folks Home in Pera. He knew also that Cliff Richard owned a vineyard in nearby Guia and so Dermot being an Englishman and not shy, had no difficulty in asking and persuading Sir Cliff to play a concert and donate the proceeds to his charity.
We also had a most wonderful evening where Mary and I got to meet him and listen to some of Cliff’s wonderful singing. I was given the job of bringing him from table to table before the concert so that all the guests could meet and greet him. For Mary to get to say hallo to Cliff Richard, having been a fan for years, was wonderful.
Dermot well done you turned your life around into one that was so positive for yourself and the many many people you helped along the way. For us we just loved you for what you were and the fun and the friendship we had in your company along the way. May you rest in peace.
Ted Dwyer Family Business