Tribute to a friend, tutor and tradesman

Jack Conneely who passed away recently was the last surviving member of the Conneely brothers of Market Street, Galway and Conneely Undertakers.

On hearing the death of this fine tradesman I thought back to that September morning back in 1970 as a young country fellow, after leaving the Vocational School in Athenry I travelled the ten miles from my home on my brother's Honda 50 to commence my carpentry apprenticeship at Hickey Boats on the Dublin Road, It was the only boat yard in Galway City at the time. My heart was thumping with different nervous thoughts going through my head.

When I reached the company I reluctantly got off the Honda 50, reported to the Office where I met the manager Paddy Raftery, who introduced me to Jack Conneely. “This is a tough career you have chosen young fellow” said Jack, that it surely was but I stuck it out. Jack was a senior tradesman with the company. As time progressed I realised there was no need to worry on that first day because I was in good hands with Jack.

He showed me all the tricks of the trade. One of his repeated instructions was ‘measure twice, cut once.’ After all those years those words still ring out in my ears. When I had my apprenticeship completed I left Hickey Boats to gain experience in the building construction Industry but returned soon afterwards until sadly it closed during the 1980s recession.

That was the end of the boatbuilding industry in Galway City. After the closure Jack and I continued to work on building construction projects where I still continued to learn his skills, because he had worked in this industry for a number of years before joining Hickey Boats. The carpentry trade in both of those industries were very different, but Jack had them both.

Jack may not have been a teacher by profession but he taught me most of what I needed to know to gain a trade to earn a living and that was professional enough for me. For this I will be forever grateful to Jack and of course to the management of Hickey Boats for hiring me all those years ago many of whom are now gone to their Eternal Rest.

As I write this I am also remembering all the other craftsmen who was employed in this company who are also gone to their eternal rest

“Ar Dheis De go raibh a h-anam dilis”

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