00:00 Saturday 28 April 2012  Written by ILN QUINLAN

Enniskeane mans bucket souvenir of papal visit

TO MOST people it's just a humble plastic bucket, but to pensioner John Joe McCarthy it's a valued souvenir of one of the most fascinating days in his life - the day Pope John Paul II came to Limerick.

At a time when the Catholic Church is in crisis and fundamental pillars of Church policy, such as the ordination of women and compulsory celibacy, are being questioned by the majority of practising Catholics, this West Cork pensioner remains deeply faithful to the Church.

So much so that John Joe is planning to present a simple black plastic bucket, which he has had mounted on a slab of marble, to his former school, in memory of the Pope's visit to Ireland more than 30 years ago.

On September 29th, 1979, John Joe rose at 4.30am to catch the train to Limerick for the long-awaited visit by the head of the Catholic Church with his late wife Joan and young son - and brought the bucket with him to Limerick Racecourse.

'I used the bucket to carry my provisions for the day - my lunch, my camera and my binoculars,' he says, quipping that the solid two-gallon bucket, which measures more than 12 inches in height, also served two other important functions.

'I used the bucket to sit on and I also turned it over and stood on it in order to take pictures of the Pope as he passed in front of me in his Popemobile! So the bucket had three functions! I kept it all these years as a souvenir of the Pope's visit to Ireland.'

He moved house during that time, from Tipperary, to Mallow and then to the West Cork village of Enniskeane - and each time he moved, the bucket came with him.

However, the announcement earlier this year that the Eucharistic Congress was to take place in Dublin prompted him to take action.

'I thought about the bucket and I felt I should hand it over to the school where I was a pupil,' he says.

John Joe now plans to make a presentation of the bucket, along with a laminated notice which explains the story behind the bucket, to Ahiohill National School, of which he is a former pupil - he left the school in the 1940s.

'I originally wanted to have an inscription put on the bucket, but because it is made of plastic this could not be done. Instead I have written out the background to the story and laminated it. I also have a marble slab on which to display the bucket.'

Another reason why he intends to present the bucket to the school, he says, is because the pupils and teachers there have created a museum in a room in the school which celebrates the heritage and culture of the surrounding area.

'It's an excellent museum, they even have a spinning wheel'.

'I will present it to the school in mid-May and it will go into the museum there and will be a memory of the Pope's visit to Ireland.'

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