‘THE life and death of each of us has its impact on others.’
That quote from the Bible, so often used at funerals could have been written with Fachtna O’Callaghan in mind. He touched so many lives, my own included, and his recent untimely death has left a void in the community in Rossccarbery and beyond.
He will be forever associated with the Farmers’ March in 1966: He was one of the original small group that started out from Bantry and ended up on the steps of the Dept of Agriculture in Kildare Street, Dublin.
There is wonderful black and white film footage from the RTÉ archives showing the marchers as they came from the Grand Parade around Daunt Square into Patrick Street. Led by Rickard Deasy, marching four abreast in military formation, the rain pouring down, you will see the distinctive tall thin twenty-something figure of Fachtna in the middle with a cap and long walking stick. They looked like they were ready to start a revolution and, in a way, they did.
That campaign was about much more than low farm prices, it was about a new rural generation no longer willing to be second-class citizens in their own country. This was the ‘Macra Generation’ and Fachtna and his contemporaries were inspired by their involvement in that organisation.
All those field day competitions, public speaking, debating, amateur dramatics, imbued them with a growing confidence and self-awareness that inexorably led them into activist politics, leading on to the Farmers’ Rights Campaign through the NFA (as it was at the time) in 1966. He made life-long friends from that campaign and during his long years subsequently in the IFA, everyone respected him and sought his counsel, largely because he had no personal agenda.
His motivation was always the betterment of others, the community, his fellow farmers and his country. He was that rare commodity – a true patriot.
His active involvements in subsequent years, getting TJ Maher elected to the European Parliament (ninety-thousand votes) and re-elected, starting the Carbery Pig Group and the sensitive, delicate work of credit negeotiations with banks for farmers in trouble in the 1990s, it reads like a recent history of rural Ireland.
All of this public role came second to his wife and family and his own successful pig farming business. One can hardly think about him without also thinking of his beloved Frances; a perfect foil for his dry humour! That humour had dimmed a little over the course of the last couple of years’ illness.
For me, personally, our paths crossed about 35 years ago, a chance encounter at a difficult time in my life. As he was leaving, he said ‘I’ll drop down next week.’ He was true to his word and for all the weeks and years that followed . . taking me to IFA meetings in Drimoleague and Dunmanway, plays in Cork and Rossmore and later, much later, taking me in the taxi every Saturday night to the pub; you could set your clock by him, always on the dot.
The nature of friendship is hard to explain. Unfortunately we tend to sometimes take it for granted, it is only when the person is gone that you begin to realise how significant they were.
Fachtna cast a long, beautiful shadow over many lives, quietly and unobtrusively. Beannacht De ar a anam dilis:
– Pat Connolly