THE chairman of Kinsale History Society, Terry Connolly, issued the following statement during the week on behalf of the society: ‘The members of the Kinsale & District History Society were deeply saddened to hear of the death of our esteemed president, Eugene Gillen, on December 16th, 2017. Eugene made an enormous contribution to life in Kinsale particularly in the area of historical research and in the arts.
‘Eugene was a native of Rosses Point in Co Sligo. As a young man, he joined the Irish Lights organisation which served as the General Lighthouse Authority for the island of Ireland. He served in many lighthouse stations around the coast of Ireland and particularly loved the lighthouses on remote islands such as the Tiaracht, off Kerry, and Inistrahull, off Donegal. These stations provided him with the peace and tranquillity he required to study his beloved history books and practise his other passion, landscape painting, during his off-duty periods.
‘When Eugene was transferred to the Old Head lighthouse, he was fortunate to meet and later marry Brid Walsh. Brid was the niece of the renowned historian of an earlier period, Seamus Breathnach (James Walsh), who together with Rev Patrick McSwiney, Eamon O’Neill and other interested parties collected the historical artefacts and writings needed to set up Kinsale’s first museum in a room at the local Vocational School.
‘It was only natural that Eugene should also be involved in the local museum. He was for many years the curator of the museum and Michael Mulcahy and himself spent many a cold winter’s night setting up the magnificent collection displaying the tools and methods used by the master craftsmen of old Kinsale.
‘This can be seen on the ground floor in the Courthouse. ‘Eugene and Michael Mulcahy were honoured for this work with a public presentation by the Kinsale Urban District Council.
‘Eugene, over the years, has written many articles of historical interest, not only for our own historical journal, but for many other publications. He collaborated with Rod Hunt on the production of a book on the Lusitania and has freely provided many historians with information on the history of Kinsale and its environs.
‘He has given very many lectures not only to our own society but to many other societies and visitors to Kinsale. Eugene was possessed of a mischievous sense of humour, which he often used to garnish his presentations with anecdotes, which added greatly to his stories.
‘On behalf of the members of the Kinsale and District Local History Society, I would like to offer our sympathies to his children Sally, Mandy, Cearma, Igan and Gerard. They can be proud of the contribution made by Eugene to our community.
‘We in the Society will be eternally grateful for the guidance given by Eugene and the body of work he has bequeathed to us. He will never be forgotten.’