Last night we said goodbye to Seamie Keane.
His wake was held in the home he created with Margy and there were so many of us packed in there that it was hard to count them – but it was well over a hundred of us who gathered in his name.
Though he spoke with an Aussie accent Seamie was Irish-born and Irish of soul; a character out of Behan or O’Casey – a big man who was larger than life in other ways too. That’s why it’s so hard to think of him gone, and only 58 too.
Seamie was many things and some of them most of us didn’t even know until we heard about them last night. A bricklayer-cum-sound engineer who could turn his large hands to most building tasks, a champion cyclist, fine banjo player, kind friend And though he had no children of his own, he was a much-loved surrogate dad to some. Not one to suffer fools gladly, he was also wonderfully affectionate. Many a hug in the street I’ve had from him and his “hello my dear” could illuminate your day.
Tamborine Mountain will miss the sound of his banjo and also his generosity in giving his services as the soundman for so many community events. Music was his great passion and he played when and where he could, sometimes with Margy, sometimes with others, travelling to gigs in his van full of amps and mics and cables.
Actually, some of us said goodbye to Seamie twice this week because poetry night at Clancy’s last Monday was full of his presence. Margy, brave-hearted as always, emceed the event and read a couple of poems. Others recited poems with Seamie in mind. And the guest poet, the wonderful Gary Fogarty, had been invited by Seamie when they met at some event or other. Poor man, he arrived that day on Seamie and Margy’s doorstep only to find that the man who had brought him there had been felled by a massive stroke – it would have had to be massive to knock flat a man as strong as Seamie.
Last night we heard about Seamie’s sad and often brutal early life from his sister Josephine, and there were other eulogies too, and we understood better why Seamie always put a high value on peace and kindness. He’d had little enough of these things in his childhood. Margy, when she spoke, made it clear that there was to be no hagiography – in life he was not a faultless man but he was certainly a much-loved one.
I looked round that folk-filled room seeing sadness everywhere, and not just for the man we’d come to mourn. I saw those who had lost husbands and partners and in one case a son. I saw those suffering from terminal cancer and those still battling it with hope. I saw those whom I know have suffered other hardships and losses. Yet by the end of the eulogies we all had smiles on our faces and were ready to feast and frolic because in the midst of death we are in life and the power of it always vanquishes sorrow.
Good man yerself, Seamie Keane, you are already much missed. Like me, you didn’t believe in Heaven. Pity, really, because I’d like to think of you up there on a cloud, playing your banjo for all those hopeful eejits coming through the pearly gates!