THE late Francis Hickey not only had an interesting life, he had an interesting birth, too.
Francis and the late Pierce Hickey of Skibbereen’s Lucky Lotto Newsagents were identical twins, but they celebrated their birthdays on different days.
Francis, the elder, was born before midnight on February 13th 1941 and it was only when the doctor returned – after attending to the victim of a shooting a few doors down – that Pierce Valentine Hickey was born on February 14th.
Their mother Betty was, as indeed was the doctor, completely unaware that she was expecting twins.
No one was expecting there to be a shooting, either, and some say it was connected with a strike action in a bakery.
That was the beginning of a friendship and a brotherly bond that was so close it was considered telepathic until Pierce’s untimely demise in 2009.
In life, Francis was a gregarious, chatty man. He was considered the life of the party and had a word for everyone but his bonhomie was not beyond enjoying some gallows humour when some unsuspecting people in Skibbereen would do a double take, thinking they were seeing the ghost of his late brother.
Pierce senior and Betty had five boys, namely Declan, who followed in his father’s profession as a pharmacist. Then there was Francis and Pierce, followed by Oliver and Tom.
For a time, Pierce was a medical rep before establishing a newsagents that still holds the record for the greatest number of lottery wins. He was also a well-respected photographer.
Francis, for a much larger portion of his life, worked as a medical rep for a number of the top firms, but it was his other interests – music and the arts – that gave his life depth and flavour.
Francis had a few medical issues to contend with throughout his life, but it was an oesophageal operation in 1980 by the legendary Professor Gerry O’Sullivan from Caheragh that extended his life considerably.
His brother Tom told The Southern Star that just before Christmas Francis received a call from a consultant who had come across his fascinating medical file.
‘The consultant rang him up and told him the normal life expectancy for someone who had that type of operation is 30 years, but Francis was in his 42nd year post-op,’ said Tom.
It should come as no surprise then to learn that Francis donated his body to UCC for medical research.
Throughout his life Francis was always learning. In 2009, he studied for a diploma in European art and history and was very involved in the Opera House as well as the innovative Triskel Arts Centre.
In the 60s, he served his time, as did so many others, as an enthusiastic and dedicated member of Skibbereen’s pantomime and choral society.
Francis died on February 12th less than 24 hours before his 82nd birthday.
There is another little known fact about Francis. He gave three years of his life to studying theology and philosophy and considered becoming a priest.
Instead, he returned home to Skibbereen where he worked for a time alongside his father in the pharmacy.
Another random fact was the untold joy he experienced when he and Declan, while on holiday in Spain in 2010, got to hold the World Cup, thereby becoming one of the few Irish men ever to have that privilege.
Francis celebrated all of life’s interests and with his passing he will be sadly missed by all of his family and friends.
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