The beloved pet dog of an elderly Ballylongford man who died while walking the bogs of his remote rural home last week remained huddled by his remains for two nights until his body was finally located.
he remains of 86-year-old Tom Shanahan were discovered less than a mile from the home in which he lived with just his terrier Suzie for company shortly before 10am on Wednesday last.
It’s believed that Mr Shanahan had set out for his daily walk around the Graffa bog on Monday evening, after he was last seen by neighbour and friend John Fealey.
It was Mr Fealey who raised the alarm on Tuesday morning when he arrived to his neighbour’s home – part of his daily routine – to find it empty.
Alerting gardaí, Mr Fealey set out in search of his friend as local coastal rescue units and the Gardaí’s canine team were called into action.
It was to culminate in a discovery that has led to deep sadness in the North Kerry village, where Mr Shanahan is remembered as a kindly soul who had been a central player in the success of the local GAA side in his youth.
“We saw his dog, Suzie, first before we discovered Tom’s remains. She was by his side all the time and only started moving away as we approached. The two of them were together with the last four or five years, morning, noon and night bar when he went into the village for his shopping. He used to say ‘Stay there and I’ll bring you back something’ to her as he was leaving, that was always his way with the dog,” Mr Fealey told The Kerryman.
Mr Fealey had brought his neighbour into the village on the Monday morning, driving him home after he had completed his shopping and putting a fire down for him before returning to his own house. “I returned on Tuesday morning to see if he was alright, but there was no sign of him. I checked around and raised the alarm after about an hour.”
The Garda dog unit searched through the dark of Tuesday evening and night.
It was Mr Fealey who suggested the general location in the expansive Graffa bog where Mr Shanahan’s remains were ultimately found, but atrocious conditions hampered the search and rescue operation all day Tuesday. The Kerryman understands the Coastguard was unable to deploy the helicopter in a vicinity with huge wind turbines due to the poor visibility, with Mr Fealey and searchers eventually discovering Mr Shanahan’s body at around 9.45am on Wednesday.
It is thought that he died suddenly on the Monday evening. “Tom was as sound as you’d get, there wasn’t a bad bone in his body, he was a gentleman and a character. If you needed an aul dig he’d give you one, if you were looking for a smart remark you’d get it off him. You wouldn’t get on your high horse with him ever,” he fondly recalled.
His loyal pet Suzie was meanwhile returned to her home. “We left her in her own house, but we’re feeding her regularly. She can stay in her own home and be looked after there. You couldn’t let an animal go hungry,” Mr Fealey said.
Tom was a key part of Bally’s 1953 North Kerry victory
Tom Shanahan was a very active sportsman all his life and his love of Gaelic Football stemmed back to his childhood years, beginning at juvenile and minor but at that time any promising senior club player would have to make his progression from their performance in the Annual Parish League competition of the time.
So in the early part of the 1950s Tom came of age and proved to be a very sticky and promising half back as he would backbone the very strong and highly successful Ballyline side of those years, who featured in many a parish league.
Such was his ability and his strength that he progressed onto the Senior Panel and was a sub in the famous 1953 Bally Senior Team that defeated Ballydonoghue in the North Kerry Senior Football Final.
Alas that was to be the last Senior title for Bally as they did not win the title again until 1968, despite contesting several Semi Finals and Finals. But Tom still kept playing both Parish league and Senior for many years afterwards. When his football days came to an end, he still kept the love of the game at heart and would follow the club with a great passion. He always carried a great affinity for the late great Micheal O’Hehir RIP and was fascinated with the voice of the legend in both GAA and horse racing. So much so that on many occasions in which Tom would be called upon to give his party piece, he would hold his audience spellbound with his commentary of many an O’ Hehir football game commentaries.
He was also big into darts and during the 70s and 80s competed in many darts tournaments around neighbouring parishes, while he would be dangerous enough with getting high scores at the beginning of a game, it was in the finishing section of the game that he was lethal and if he had a chance to finish on any double at the bottom end of the board it certainly would come very easy to him.
He also kept very active and was part of the FCA Battalion in Listowel for many a year. His passing has created a huge loss for his family, relatives and also the wide circle of friends that he made all over those 86 years.