The late Nicky Mullally
The death of Nicky Mullally on March 18, 2021 was indeed a sad day for Nicky’s family but also for all the many friends and neighbours who held him in such high esteem during his life time.
No matter what hour of the day or night anyone met Nicky Mullally he would greet them with a warm smile which fitted perfectly on his kind face behind which ticked a gentle personality.
Nicky Mullally was born on 8 October 8, 1936 in Russellstown, Attanagh, the fifth of eight children – Kathleen, Mary, Maggie, John, (Nicky), Nuala, Stella and Paddy - born to Pat Mullally and Anastatia Mullally (nee O’Toole).
Sadly Nicky’s parents passed away when he was a young man; his father died in 1952 aged 58 and his mother passed away in 1958 also aged 58 years.
Nicky married Stella in 1973. They were very happy together and were a great partnership. They had two daughters and a son who were followed by four grandsons. He adored his children and grandchildren. They, in turn, felt the same about him.
Nicky’s father, Pat Mullally was millwright by trade. He travelled around to the water-powered mills keeping the machinery in working order. There was both metal and wooden machinery to be maintained, a task that required considerable skill as the millwright had to have a working knowledge of the mill from construction to ongoing maintenance and be able to execute every sort of engineering operation.
Mills had a season and once the corn was thrashed in the autumn the mills worked throughout the winter and into the early spring. When the mill was idle, the millwright then had to get to work making sure the mill would be in working order for the following season.
Pat Mullally would have worked on upwards of 20 mills down along the River Nore as far as Jerpoint and Thomastown and also in nearby Durrow. The Mullally family had a long association with mills and in the case of Russellstown it is now impossible to ascertain whether the mill or Mullallys came first. It was unfortunate that Nicky had only began to accompany his father to work when he passed away.
Being somewhat of a mastermind, Pat Mullally was ahead of his time. During World War II, when paraffin to light oil lamps was heavily rationed, Pat managed to generate electricity from a nearby millstream and powered a turbine which provided a light in his house and a light outside in his yard too. This was some feat considering how hard times were and everything by way of raw materials for such a project would have been very hard to come by.
A generous amount of Pat Mullally’s ingenuity was passed down to Nicky. If you ask any of Nicky’s friends or neighbours what he could do they will either say “anything” or “everything” or both! Jimmy Delaney, Russellstown said that Nicky Mullally was the only self-sufficient man around who mastered all the trades.
Nicky was a farmer, builder, electrician, mechanic, plasterer, plumber and welder. Jimmy recalled a memory from years ago when full haybarn was delivered to Mullallys on the back of a lorry. Nicky dug the holes for the uprights, erected the tripod and trusses and roofed it. This haybarn was added onto up to three times after that.
Jimmy also recalls Nicky building his own milking parlour to such a standard that representatives from Avonmore, as it was known then, bringing farmers to see Nicky’s excellent workmanship. He could make everything, from gates to horseboxes to trailers - he even took the engine out of a Volkswagen and put it into a Hillman Hunter the same evening - and still had time to spare to take it out on an adventure.
No matter what Nicky did it was done to perfection. he never took any shortcuts to doing things right.
Nicky Mullally also used his skills to help his neighbours. He maintained water pumps in many local houses for years and was never short of a remedy for all sorts of household problems.
Michael Dooley, Grenan recalls if Nicky knew of a problem somewhere he would say “Maybe I will have a look...” Nothing more was said, Nicky never said where he was or what he fixed. It was all done in his own quiet way.
I asked Michael Dooley was there anything that Nicky did over the years that stood out in his mind.
“Just look at Nicky’s house,” he said. “Everything you can see around it. That is all Nicky.”
Stella also confirmed that he created and fixed everything inside and outside of the house. Yvonne remembers her father creating a paddling pool in the front garden for them as children which, at a later stage, was converted into an impressive fountain.
Michael Dooley’s father Pake and Nicky’s father were great friends. Pake was a constant visitor to the house until his own death in 1982. Pake used to come across the river from Grenan to visit at any hour of the day and night and was always welcome.
Neighbours were very important to Nicky. Delaneys and Stauntons lived close by and the men would meet every morning while looking at cattle in the their neighbouring fields. Ten in the morning was the usual meeting up time for these families. If the morning was slipping a bit, Jimmy Delaney said his father was often heard saying “Is anyone going to do anything here at all today?”
There was no task too big for any of the families as there was never a shortage of goodwill between them. There was even time to catch a rabbit or fish that might happen their way on the river. Nicky had a workshop and there would often be a crowd there rambling and some even slept there overnight.
Mullallys had a tradition of being an open house and everyone was welcome. As Michael Dooley, Grenan said “Nicky could be at anything in the yard, he could be mixing cement and if someone came in, it was down tools and in for tea.”
When Nicky married Stella the hospitality continued and she got the job of making the tarts and tea!
Nicky was known for his outstanding neighbourly qualities. Always there to help make the hay every year, he helped in any emergency without being asked. He could turn his hand to anything – electrical, mechanical, building work - he was also a great character on stage, playing all of the lead roles in Ballyouskill Hall.
The community was always of great interest to Nicky, who supported everything local. He loved sport and going to matches. He enjoyed great banter with his cousin, and frequent visitor to the house, Nicky O’Toole. Many a post-mortem was held after the matches, particularly when Kilkenny and Laois played each other.
Nicky was also involved in the IFA. He was part of the parish council and took on a lot of work with regard to the upkeep and maintenance of the church. Many people could sit on committees and talk, but Nicky sat on the committee and quickly put ideas quickly into practice.
In the 1980s Nicky, along with others, gave time and energy helping to improve Ballyouskill Hall. Toilets were built and the facilities improved by voluntary time and labour.
He was also part of the Ballyouskill History Committee who did Trojan work in making sure that the publication of a parish history was realised. Nicky provided invaluable support and encouragement until this vast project matured into The Chapel District of Ballyouskill, Attanagh.
However, one of Nicky’s greatest loves was taking part in the local drama group. In the 1970s Fr Galvin, the curate in Ballyouskill, started a drama group which was all inclusive. Nicky played major parts in plays such as Professor Tim, Sive and Wigs on the Green. Fr Henry, CC, revived the group in later years. Mikey Phelan, Earlsgarden was also involved in those days and said that the drama before and after any of the plays was as entertaining as the actual productions.
Mikey recalled the rehearsal of a scene between Nicky Mullally and Joan Gorman, late of Ballinalacken, who were portraying a married couple having a bit of a domestic argument. Part of the scene included a fireplace with some sods of turf in it. Joan’s scolding of Nicky’s character involved her shaking a piece of turf at him, but Fr Henry thought the portrayal was a bit tame so asked Joan to shake the sod of turf with a bit more energy. Joan did as she was told and shook the sod of turf so much that it flew out of her hand and nearly hit poor Nicky in the head!
Nicky had so many friends. All spoke so kindly of him and had treasure chests bursting with good memories of him. One of his oldest friends, Billy Phelan from Coole, paid Nicky the following heartfelt tribute:
“I first met Nicky when we were 14 years of age on the bridge in Russellstown. We became firm friends, travelling everywhere together on bicycles, to the cinema in Freshford, the dance board in Threecastles and Ballinamara, Freshford and to play cards till the early hours of the morning Mullally’s in Ballyring.
“Our Sunday evenings would be to cycle to Ballyragget for ice-cream which we bought for 2 shillings. We would cycle to Abbeyleix to get our hair cut with the barber Ned Minchen. When Nicky got a car we travelled further afield to dances and matches. There were often eight or nine of us in the car. We never went anywhere without each other.
“Nicky used to ramble down to Coole every week and was a huge part of our family. Nicky was very obliging and never refused a request for help. Nicky would arrive every spring in his tractor to sow the garden with different varieties of spuds and later on he would arrive to harvest them.
“Nicky all through his life was a total gentleman who was hardworking, selfless, kind and a very talented man who could turn his hand to anything. I am very grateful that I got to say goodbye to my best friend and I am very thankful to Nicky’s family. He is very much missed. May his gentle soul rest in peace.”
I spent a very entertaining two hours one evening in May listening to Jack Lacey, Tinnelinton who had many happy memories of Nicky and told me he ‘soldiered with Nicky for years’.
At times Jack shook with wonderful contagious laughter before he could get the words to his mouth to tell about their antics. Jack recalled that Paddy O’Hara worked in Tramore at the amusements park. There was no electricity, so Paddy O’Hara had the onerous job of turning the merry-go-round by hand all day.
Nicky, Jack Lacey and Paddy Keoghan went to Tramore one Sunday. They got two punctures on the hill going out of Stoneyford. Nicky had a spare tyre and managed to fix the other puncture and off they went again.
Jack said by the time their dancing days arrived Nicky had a car – a Ford Prefect Registration: C1 4587 which often travelled to the ballrooms.
They had other interesting excursions too, especially when they accompanied Pake Dooley to Clogh on a mission to buy a horse. They lost Pake for a while, but then found him in the house he was supposed to be buying this horse in - here was Pake singing a song called Cruising Down the River while dancing over a sweeping brush. Happy times.
John Sheeran, Attanagh was also a lifelong friend and he and Nicky travelled many places together. In later years, as dementia took hold, John was an invaluable friend to Nicky, calling to sit and chat with him and remember old times for him.
Before I attempted to write this I thought it was so sad that Nicky’s memory was slowly erased due to dementia and he could not remember all the people around him or all the wonderful things he created. However, after talking to his friends and neighbours, I quickly realised that even if Nicky could not remember anymore he had lots of friends and neighbours to remember for him - they will keep all the good things he did in life alive.
Nicky Mullally worked hard with humility, did not let hardships exhaust him and possessed an acceptance for what was to be. He left a treasure trove of memories, but also a huge legacy of goodwill that will resonate in Russellstown for years to come.
May Nicky rest in peace.
Thanks to all those who contributed to this article and to the Mullally family.
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