A ‘TRUE gentleman’, a ‘gentle giant’ and a man who deeply loved his family, friends and community.
These are just some of the thousands of comments heard and posted this week following the devastating news of the death of Declan ‘Decky’ Newman at Lough Hyne near Skibbereen on Sunday last.
‘Decky always tried to help everyone where he could, he was a great friend who was full of life and happiness,’ Decky’s long-time friend and fellow swimmer Noel Browne told The Southern Star.
‘We are all devastated. He was the heart and soul, not only of our community of swimmers, but of everyone who was lucky enough to know him about the town and in West Cork,’ Noel said.
‘There wasn’t a person in Skibbereen who didn’t have a smile for Decky when they would meet him. He is sadly missed and will be for many years to come.’
Declan was the founder of the Lough Hyne Lappers and had a greeting for everyone who turned up at the lake outside Skibbereen, even those who weren’t brave enough to dip their toes, never mind their bodies, in the cold water.
‘The news of Decky’s untimely death came as a huge shock to us all,’ one regular visitor to the area said.
‘His big smile and his songs will be sadly missed at Lough Hyne and beyond.’
While Declan moved to Skibbereen many years ago, he was still a proud ‘Norrie’ from Dublin Hill and he brought his love of soccer, and especially Leeds United, with him to West Cork.
‘We are all simply devastated here. Decky was, and always will be, very much a major and important part of our club,’ the chairman of Skibbereen AFC John Allen said.
‘He was of course a former chairman and he never stopped working passionately for – not only our club – but every organisation and club that he gave his time to.
‘We will always remember him fondly and he will be sadly missed, not only by everyone here at the club, but right across the community.’
Declan was also a gifted signwriter and his perfect handiwork can be seen on shopfronts all over the town.
He was enjoying his usual Sunday morning swim last weekend, accompanied by close friends and also his son Cillian, when he suffered a suspected heart attack, close to the pier, after completing the group’s usual lap of the island on the lake.
Taking a brief stop just before completing the last few metres of the swim, he commented to a friend that it was time to head back and get the traditional cup of tea in.
When his friends spotted he was in trouble close to the main pier, they moved swiftly to get the very defibrillator that the Lappers had sponsored, which is installed beside the main pier.
The emergency services were contacted and an ambulance arrived within 15 minutes, closely followed by the Irish Community Air Ambulance, which landed at nearby Lough Hyne House.
Two fire engines, gardaí and members of the Civil Defence all attended but Declan was pronounced dead at the scene and members of his family and friends were afforded time to say goodbye, on the shore of the lake which the Corkman adored.