‘When the saints go marching in’.....

Remembering the late Christy Dooley

It is a fact that when few people had a job in Galway the late Christopher (Christy ) Dooley of Renmore Park, had many. They were all of an amazing variety. One of them was a factory on the Mervue Industrial estate where he made parts for German railway engines. He had a specialised scrap business in Munster Avenue, the site of the old family forge, where he recycled aeroplane parts and exported them to Spain.

He made vintage props and scenery sets for the film Alfred the Great, shot in Galway in 1968, and later for the late Dennis Hopper when he was directing a film in Wicklow in 1996. Christy owned the only aqua lung underwater equipment in the west of Ireland. Not only did he dive for salvage but recovered bodies for the army and the gardaí. He was a brilliant high diver and strong swimmer.

He rescued many people from drowning; once diving from Wolfe Tone bridge into the raging water to pull a young man safely ashore. He was awarded a medal for life-saving, personally presented by the former admiral of the British Fleet, Louis Mountbatten.

With Bobby Molloy, he started the Galway Bay Sailing Club, and introduced a whole generation of young people to the fun of sailing. He co-founded the Blackrock Swimming Club, and became president of the Irish Amateur Swimming Association. He was a line judge during the ill-fated 1972 Munich Olympics, which was marred by the murder of the Israeli team. The highlight, however, was the superhuman performance by American Mark Spitz, who won seven gold medals. Afterwards, Lord Killanin, vice president of the games, sent a signed photograph to Christy, which included Spitz and himself, with the comment: “Not bad for a couple of Galway lads.”

Christy’s mother, Hannah Burke, came from Athenry. His father, Michael Dooley, worked as a blacksmith with Fintan Coogan’s grandfather at his forge on New Road. He set up his own forge first at William Street West, and then at Munster Avenue. Michael started a famous dance band The Arabians, which eventually included his sons Max, Jimmy, Cyril, Kieran, and of course Christy.

His two daughters, Frances and Vera were both exceptionally musical as well. Foot-tapping trad jazz was their business, and some of the brothers continued to play on Sunday mornings in Busker Brownes until recently. Their signature tune was the popular American gospel hymn “When the saints go marching in’.

Christy married the wonderful Maisie and they had three children: Tressan, Verran and his special son Ronan. Maisie and Christie founded the Western Society for Autism, and spent years arranging fund-raising events up and down the country to provide home care for autistic children and adults. What they achieved was extraordinary. Today there are three home for sufferers of autism, two in Knocknacarra, and a farm, Gort Cloon Mór, in Claregalway.

Christy, who hadn’t been well of late, died peacefully at the Galway Hospice on Monday. There was an enormous crowd at his funeral. People looked behind them at the growing queue, and remarked: “Sure why isn’t there a big crowd. Didn’t Christy always have a smile for everyone?” His grandchildren, Max, Dara, Isobel, Alice, Stephen, Patrick and Blaise all adored him. — Ronnie O’Gorman

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