Donnybrook Marks the Passing of Local Legend

Theresa Doyle & Christy Doyle

On January 2nd last Donnybrook mourned the passing of one of its oldest and most loved residents, Thomas (known affectionately as Tommy) Doyle. Tommy sadly passed away in Vincent’s Hospital only nine months after his beloved wife Eileen.
His father Philip Doyle was a sergeant in the British Army and fought in the Second World War in North Africa, whilst his mother Katherine reared Tommy’s six brothers and five sisters. They lived in Milltown, but as a boy Tommy was reared by his granny in Pearse Court.
It wasn’t unusual in those days to live with close relatives, especially large families.
In later years he looked after his granny who we all knew as ‘Granny Crothers’.
Tommy met his future wife Eileen, who lived in Townsend Street and they got married at a young age, again, not uncommon in those days. They lived in Fenian Street in a one-room tenement house and had six children in the early ‘50s. At the time living conditions were appalling and life was a struggle to rear and feed six children. In June 1963, a number of tenement houses at Bolton Street and Fenian Street collapsed.
Tommy and Eileen lived very close to the building where an elderly couple and two young girls died. Corporation officials were frantically trying to find alternative accommodation for hundreds of families occupying the condemned and dangerous houses.
Tommy and Eileen were one of the families that was offered a house. However, it was located on the north side of the city, and Tommy was adamant that he wanted to live on the south side and be close to his family. He stuck to his guns and was eventually offered a house in Donnybrook, in Home Villas. Whilst living in Donnybrook their family became eight,with the arrival of two more daughters. Living in Donnybrook, Tommy became involved in many community activities, including joining the football teams in the local pubs. There were a number of local competitions, and the pub teams in Donnybrook would play against teams in RIngsend, Ballsbridge and Sandymount. In those competitions Tommy would have played alongside players from Shelbourne, Shamrock Rovers and other League of Ireland teams of the day.
For many years Tommy worked in the Bottle House (IGB) as well as in the Gas Company. Later he went on to work in the ESB where his brother Phil got him a job in one of the labour gangs. This saw Tommy travelling all over the country digging roads and trenches. Another job he did was to paint tar on the wooden poles to preserve them against the weather. It was tough work, which required being out in all types of weather. He had to climb ESB poles that were up to 30ft high preparing them for electric cables to be connected, thus enabling electricity to be brought across to the most remote areas of the country.
Some of Tommy’s poles are still standing to this day.
Unfortunately while doing this work Tommy had a bad accident when a safety harness snapped and he fell from a height whilst working on an electricity pole. This resulted in a back injury that left him in hospital for a number of months. When he returned home he had to wear a back brace for six months.
On his recovery Tommy was unable to work and had to take early retirement. It was at this point that he began to spend most of his day going to Herbert Park to feed the pigeons,walking his dog and talking to neighbours and old friends. During his trips to
the park he met a variety of interesting people of all ages and backgrounds, including the late broadcaster Gay Byrne who on occasion could be seen walking around the park. One woman, who wrote a book asked Tommy if it was okay to mention him in it. When it was published she gave him a signed copy.
In his later years as he got too old to walk long distances he would sit on the benches with people he knew from Donnybrook and feed the pigeons. The birds got to know Tommy and would accumulate around him when he arrived waiting to be fed.
In fact some would even follow him home always knowing that Tommy would have more food for them. Indeed it was not uncommon for a pigeon to follow Tommy into the house if he had forgotten to close the door.
Tommy never went out of his house without having bags of bird seed in his pockets ready to feed the pigeons. In the early ‘70s Tommy had a pigeon loft in his backyard.
He raced them and got great enjoyment breeding them also. However, as Tommy’s flock of pigeons grew it got to a point where the local housewives could take no more as they were unable to hang out their washing due to Tommy’s flock of birds doing what came natural to them.
Needless to say the local shops selling washing powder were disappointed at this.
Since his passing a great number of people have approached the family, not just with messages of sympathy but to convey how well loved Tommy was in Herbert Park, and indeed in the greater district.
So, it was a fitting tribute to him that on the day of his funeral his son Christy arranged for his hearse to pass through the park. It was a lovely send-off, with family, friends, and neighbours all coming out to clap in appreciation as the hearse passed by. And Tommy had one last glance at his beloved park.
Further, in memory of Tommy’s
love of birds, doves were released at his graveside in Shanganagh Cemetery.

May Tommy and Eileen both rest in peace.