Last month I received an email from John Gaffney, Senior Counsel in Abu Dhabi, in connection with a blog I did about P.K. Kiely back in January 2014. Thankfully, it wasn’t a legal issue! PK was John’s grandfather and John’s mum Anne was interested in coming to talk with me about her Dad, PK. Anne wanted to know if I had any more stories about him.
Isn’t the internet a wonderful thing the way we can keep in touch with people we have never met all around the world! Because of John’s email, I have done some more research and will do another blog on PK and some of his family so that I will have as much information as possible for Anne when she calls to see me. Interestingly John and my son-in-law, Rossa McMahon, were two of the speakers at a legal conference at UCC some years ago.
I don’t think I have met Anne before but I did know and was friendly with some of her family through Cork Golf Club or simply because Cork is quite a small place and everyone knows everyone and everything about them too! For example, Jack Sullivan was married to Kathleen (a daughter of PK) and Jack was President of Cork Golf Club when I was captain in 1983. Mary (another daughter) was married to a great friend of mine, Barry Burke. And another daughter, Chris, was married to Pierce O’Leary. I played many a game of golf with Barry and Pierce in Cork and Waterville. I remember also meeting Barty (another son) in Freddie’s bar in Caherdaniel. Barty was in my brother George’s class in Christian Brothers.
PK Kiely was a great racing friend of my Dad. They travelled to race meetings all over Ireland and also to England on many occasions to watch the Gold Cup and all the other races at Cheltenham as well as to Aintree to watch the Grand National. There was little flying in those days and most of the trips were made on the Innisfallen steamboat from the Port of Cork to Fishguard. The Innisfallen docked on Penrose Quay and made the trip from Cork every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 1948 to 1968.
PK was a famous and well-loved surgeon and, as far as I can remember from talking with my Dad, he was a multipurpose surgeon and operated on many different parts of the body. According to Aidan Coffee (PK was his granduncle), who sent me a very interesting email in August 2017, PK was born near Stradbally in County Waterford. He went to school in Stradbally National School and to St. Augustine’s in Dungarvan. He qualified in medicine in UCC in 1920 and gained his fellowship in Surgery in London. Subsequently, he was appointed Consultant to The South Infirmary, Mercy and Bon Secours Hospitals in Cork. Some years later, the Royal College of Surgeons made him an Honorary Fellow (FRCSI). He began as a surgeon in the pre-antibiotic era when anaesthetics were either chloroform or ether so the avoidance of infection required great surgical and nursing care.
PK was a Professor of Surgery at UCC for 30 years until his retirement from office in 1968. Afterwards, he continued his general surgical practice until well into his seventies. PK’s Textbook of Surgery was first published in 1949, and his spur to the less energetic of his students was to have a read of “The Book”…his book. Thank you Aidan.
My Dad did his memoirs on hunting, horseracing, golf, sailing and tennis before he died and had many stories about PK. One of the first things I remember him telling me about PK was that every morning of his life PK used to have a cold bath for his circulation. Isn’t it funny that nowadays swimming daily in the sea is being regarded as a truly wonderful & healthy thing to do. Methinks PK was way ahead of his time.
He was a well-loved member at Cork Golf Club situated on Little Island and, even though PK was some 60 years older than I, we became good friends and I often played a four ball with him. PK used to use his initials as a pseudonym when he entered a golf competition and if he featured in the prizes, you would see the name ‘P. Kaye’ as the winner of whatever prize it was. I think that he didn’t perhaps want his patients or the hard working nurses in the various hospitals he worked in to know that he was playing golf over the weekends whilst they were working. That was the kind of man he was.
Cork Golf Club is about 6 miles from Cork City and it was a regular feature for PK to walk the 6 or 7 miles from his home, then play golf and walk home again. Sometimes, if he was tired, he would take a lift from someone going his way. Similarly, when he was well into his nineties, if Vincent O’Brien or his nephew John Kiely (the wonderful trainer of horses in Dungarvan and still sending out winners) had a horse running, he would often walk from his home in Douglas to my office (then at 12 South Mall in Cork City) to have a chat about its chances.
PK loved a good bet too when playing a four ball and he had a few willing accomplices in Aeneas Lane from Cobh, Dr Cyril Delap and Mick Hegarty the builder. Their matches were played more seriously than any Ryder Cup match (perhaps too, there was more money at stake!) One day, they were playing the 18th at Little Island and Aeneas & Delap were against PK & Mick Hegarty. Aeneas hit a great tee shot but his second shot was vital as his partner was in trouble. He played his second from the middle of the fairway and hooked it viciously over the wall and out of bounds…Ball and money gone. With that, PK turned around to Aeneas and says “well well Aeneas, there she goes boy…and they call this sport!”
One year I attended the AGM at Little Island. I was still a junior member so it must have been around 1963/1964. PK wasn’t playing golf any more. At the end of the meeting, I stood up and suggested that, as PK was no longer able to play golf, I would like to propose him for honorary membership of the club. This was approved unanimously by all the members present. After the meeting, Mr Jim Kennedy the sec/manager took me aside and said that, as I wasn’t a full member of the club, I really wasn’t able to propose anything or in fact speak at the AGM. However, he then said that as it was PK he was going to allow it stand.
PK and I were both past officers at Cork Golf Club, he was a past captain and president and I was a past captain. Every year we have a reunion dinner in the club. One year, Dr Seamus O’Donoghue and I were discussing the chances of a horse, Island Reef, that we had a share in who was running in the old Phoenix Park racecourse the following day. As the name might suggest, the syndicate that owned Island Reef (trained by Kevin Prendergast) had a number of Little Island members. PK was also at the dinner that night.
We had arranged to go in the early train to Dublin and PK said that he would love to go too but his problem was that he found it too difficult to get down off the train and that he wasn’t going anywhere on the train anymore. The following morning we arrive at the train station. Low and behold, there moving slowly but surely towards the train was the bold PK. “I decided I would go with my friends, you might be kind enough to give me a hand down off the train.”
Island Reef had won a nice race earlier that year at Leopardstown and was running in the 2000 Guineas Trial, which was a race for the top three year olds over a mile. We felt he had little chance of winning as we were up against one of Vincent O Brien’s well-bred horses, Bluebird, who subsequently won a race at Ascot that year. We went in hope rather than expectation and as the race entered the closing stages it was a ding-dong battle between Bluebird and Island Reef. On the line there was only a short head between them with Island Reef being declared the winner in the photo finish. Happy days.
I have to admit that it was a wonderful feeling to stand in the winner’s enclosure with Vincent O’Brien and my former school friend, his son-in-law John Magnier, in the runner up spot. Was it as good a day as I ever had in racing? Probably yes. I had one other wonderful day when another horse I had a share in beat a horse owned by Anne Duchess of Westminster….but that is another story!
The following week I got a lovely letter from PK…..
In his memoirs, my Dad wrote that “I was always struck when travelling with PK by the good will he generated. It seemed to me that in the course of his professional life he must have gone way beyond what was normal in doing good turns for people, they all seemed to be so anxious to do something for him in return. This concern for others seemed to be a trait in the Kiely family which has been passed on to PK’s son Dr P.B. (Paddy) Kiely. When my son Martin had to have his appendix taken out, he went in the night before to the Bon Secours. P.B. was to perform the operation as P.K himself had a cold. I was surprised that the surgeon himself appeared shortly after we went in to Martin’s room. He checked that all was in order including the TV set which he insisted on filling up with coins.”
I too, have some good memories of PB and the last time I met him, which was just over a year ago at his wife Kathleen’s funeral mass, we had a brief chat about old times. Years ago, we used to regularly have a game of golf and I can remember one Sunday morning when we entered in an open completion at Muskerry – we played very early that morning, probably about 7am. After playing 18 holes we returned to Little Island to play another 18. I seem to remember playing in a four ball that afternoon also at Little Island! Happy days.
I am not sure if that was the day that PB had the squeaky caddy car. Anyway, one day we were playing golf at Little Island and the squeaks from his caddy car were driving him crazy. True to say also that PB as a golfer was a little temperamental. Anyway, we were playing the 13th at Little Island (the short hole over the old limestone quarry) and when we got to the next tee PB was carrying his golf clubs over his shoulders, the squeaky caddy car was gone. I am not saying for a second that he dispatched it down the quarry but PB had a kind of satisfied look on his face as we played down the 14th.
I met PB at Mallow races one day. It was some time after Liam Higgins and I had visited PK in the nursing home in Rochestown. I asked PB how PK was doing. PB replied “he is doing fine, he will be 101 in a few months’ time. He wants to get to 101 to show everyone that getting to 100 was not a fluke!” As far as I can remember, PK was buried on or around his 101st birthday. Dead maybe, but I don’t think that he will ever be forgotten.
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