December 14, 2002
Paddy ‘Slim’ Connell, one of the town’s ‘ould stock’, officially switched on Portlaoise’s Christmas lights on Monday night and, characteristically, celebrated the occasion with a ball of malt.
Costing €25,000 and funded by business people, the lights have been extended this year, illuminating more sections of Market Square and Lyster Square.
Living at Marian Avenue, Paddy Connell and his wife Mary reared eight children. He has made a major contribution to community life in Portlaoise during his 80-plus years.
He is best known for his association with his beloved St Joseph’s Accordion Band of which he is President.
After helping to establish the band in 1957, he went on to serve it in many capacitites and at many venues.
Paddy and his St Joseph’s colleagues have for many years done their part in brightening Portlaoise for Christmas by erecting lights on the Marian Shrine in Market Square.
It was, of course, Peter Smith, another band stalwart, who, before the business community took over the task, ensured that Portlaoise had Christmas lights.
MC at the switch-on ceremony, which took place in The Square Bar, was businessman John McNamee.
He revealed that the Christmas Lights Committee had acquired an invaluable new member, retired ESB man Ollie Byrne who “had used his skills to great effect.”
Hosts at the ceremony were The Square Bar’s Jim and Ann Fitzpatrick and their family. Shareef Hussain, of the Palki restaurant, provided refreshments.
In attendance was Cllr Joe McCormack, Mayor of Portlaoise.