Unsurprisingly, Father’s Day on Sunday made me think of my dad Jim.
As a big smoker, he died at the all too early age of 60 in January 1985. So I have not seen him for 36 years.
Jim was born in 1924 in a place called Pollagh, outside Tullamore, Co. Offaly.
Due to family poverty, he was forced to leave school aged 12, to go minding cattle and bring home a very small weekly wage of £2.6d – £ 5.93 today.
He was a bright lad and deepy regretted not getting a better education.
At 18, in 1942, he got a job as a factory worker in Salt’s spinning mill in Tullamore and quickly became a supervisor.
While at Salt’s he got involved in the trade union movement and became the union rep there.
In 1956 a vacancy for a full-time trade union branch secretary in Carlow. Jim applied and got the job and we all moved to Carlow.
In 1960 he was moved to the IT&GWU (Irish Transport and General Workers Union) at Liberty Hall in Dublin and we all moved to Dublin.
He became branch secretary of Branch 13.
During his union time he studied at home and got his A levels.
He then took evening classes at University College Dublin and gained a BA in philosophy, archaeology and economics in 1972.
Then he studied at the Kings Inns in Dublin and was called to the bar in 1978.
During this time he had left the union and had become the personnel manager for Avon cosmetics at Portarlington in Co. Laoise. Avon sponsored his studies for the bar.
So the 12-year-old cattle minder was now James Buckley BA BL.
During all this time he fathered 17 children – 11 of whom lived to adulthood. For much of the time he had two jobs to support the family.
I was the firstborn.
Jim was a very strong anti-establishment socialist and from the age of 3 I was brought to union meetings and picket lines.
So, its hardly surprising that I have turned out to be anti-establishment and a rebel.
Jim became a big smoker as a result of attending union meetings where cigarettes were passed around like biscuits.
He died during his 9 th heart attack while the doctors worked on him in resuss. I anointed him while the doctors worked on him. The doctors, presuming me to be the hospital chaplain, said to me: “Im afraid he’s done for Father”.
I celebrated his funeral at our parish church at Ballygall in Dublin.
It was the second hardest thing I’ve done.
The hardest was celebrating my mother’s funeral 21 years later in 2006.