‘ALWAYS Look On The Bright Side of Life’ was sung when they buried Bill Leonard.
The Monty Python comedy classic was a fitting end for Bill Leonard, a publican by profession but also part comedian, and a man who – even when he was in earnest – could always put a smile on people’s faces.
Anyone who stepped over the threshold of Ma Murphy’s bar in Bantry would have come to know that Bill was a gentleman, comedian, charmer, wordsmith, landlord and a legend.
Bill, who is survived by his loving wife Patricia, and his children Mary, Caroline and Seán, had a strong Welsh accent, but he always claimed Cape Clear Island – where his parents Con and Mary Leonard were from – was ‘home.’
He was in fact born in Wales because his parents had moved there for work, but even though Bill had travelled the world with the British navy he had an inbuilt homing instinct for Cape.
It was while he was on leave on the island – saving hay with his uncle – that he first met Patricia, from Dublin who had been back-packing around Ireland.
Three days later, Bill proposed and, as legend goes, Patricia replied: ‘What took you so long?’ Clearly he had met his match and together they shared 51 years of happy marriage.
In 1981, they relocated from Wales to Bantry and took over Ma Murphy’s, and from that day forward, Bill never got tired of saying he was ‘the luckiest man alive’ to be able to live in West Cork.
His daughter, Mary, said people warmed to him because he had ‘a big, big heart.’ She said: ‘He had a way of making people feel happy. And his motto in life was: “happiness, leisure and pleasure”. He’d say it all the time,’ she said.
‘Bill treated everyone who came into the pub equally. He had a genuine interest in connecting with people. And in a world where people don’t take time, he took the time.’