THE last time Ireland was graced with a papal visit, Enniskeane’s John Joe McCarthy made sure, complete with a black plastic bucket in hand, that he was going to get a good glimpse of Pope John Paul II. His story even made headlines in The Southern Star.
Now, almost 40 years later, the country is set for another papal visit when Pope Francis arrives at the end of August.
But, as he approaches 92, John Joe says it’s unlikely that he will be travelling to Dublin to see Pope Francis when he participates in the World Meeting of Families event in Croke Park.
‘It should be more like the Pope coming to visit me,’ quipped John Joe, who has vivid memories of going to Limerick racecourse, along with over 400,000 people, to see Pope John Paul II on October 1st, 1979.
‘I was living in Tipperary at the time and I remember getting the train at 4am to Limerick with my late wife Joan, and my son. I had actually forgotten my train tickets, but luckily I knew the station master and he held up the train for me, while I went back to get my ticket.’
Knowing how long a day it would be at Limerick Racecourse, John Joe said he was looking for something beforehand to carry all his belongings in, but was unable to find anything.
‘I actually bought this black plastic bucket, which was about 12 inches in height, in Dundrum in Tipperary, for £1.36, and thought this would do fine as I could carry my camera, my binoculars and my lunch in it. But also more importantly, I could sit down on the bucket and have my lunch. And, when the Pope mobile passed by, I could stand on it to get a glimpse of him and take pictures,’ added John Joe.
They don’t make buckets like they used to, and John Joe admits that that the plastic was a lot harder than that used in today’s buckets.
‘This was a great bucket and it was too good to be used for picking stones or potatoes, and also too good to be cast away, especially as I used it to see the Pope, so I kept it safe at home.’
John Joe kept says the bucket was close to his heart down through the years, despite moving home several times, until eventually coming back to West Cork and settling in Enniskeane.
‘It was Marion O’Driscoll who took it down from my shed one day and I decided to get a laminated plaque made up about what happened on the day. I had also wanted to put an inscription on the bucket, but because it was plastic, we were unable to do that, but I got a marble slab for it to be displayed on.’
As a former pupil of Ahiohill National School, in 2012 he donated the bucket to the school as a souvenir of its time. And that’s where it rests today.
‘They have a museum in a room in the school there and it fits in perfectly. The bucket belongs to them now. I’m happy with what I did with it,’ added John Joe.