Castleknock College Union

Thomas MacKenna, class '39

1920 - 2011

Nov 8, 2011
Thomas MacKenna, class '39 -


The Union was saddened to learn of the passing today of Thomas (Tom) MacKenna, class '39.

The death has occurred of Thomas MAC KENNA KSS, KCHS
Farnham St., Cavan Town, Cavan

Peacefully, at Cavan General Hospital.Beloved husband of Kathleen and devoted father of Mannix, Lily, Marie and Tomas. Deeply missed by his loving family, brothers-in-law John and Francie McKiernan, sister-in-law Sr. Proinnsias, Julie Tuck and his cousins.

Reposing at the McMahon Funeral Home, Farnham Road, Cavan from 4pm tomorrow evening, Thursday, until removal at 6pm to the Cathedral of Ss. Patrick & Felim, Cavan, arriving at 6.30pm. Requiem Mass on Friday at 11am, followed by burial in St. Brigid’s Cemetery, Killygarry.

Date Published: Wednesday 9th November 2011           Date of Death: Tuesday 8th November 2011

Tom has been long associated with Castleknock College from his schoolboy days as a pupil with the class of 1939, and as father of Mannix, class '71 and Tomas, class '83, through to his wonderful support of the Union throughout his long life, including long service as Vice-President of the Ulster Province and unstinting support for Mannix during his term as Union President in 2001.

We suspect none have attended more Union functions than Tom MacKenna.

Both Tom and his wife Kathleen were ennobled with Papal Honours in recognition of their contributions to their community. Acknowledging the character of a man that merited such recognition is no easy task, and thus perhaps it is best to defer to his eldest daughter, Lily, who delivered his Funeral Mass Eulogy -

Sir Thomas, aside from his illustrious title, was an ordinary man with an extraordinary facility to engender respect and affection as clearly evidenced by the vast number of people who attended the funeral home yesterday evening and again at the funeral today.

The tributes and expressions of sympathy have been overwhelming and the phrase common to all is “he was a gentleman” – how very true. Those of you who knew him – well you knew him - for those who did not have that privilege I will try to give you a peep into his character.

He had an unquenchable appetite for life which only started to fade recently. He bore his illness with the utmost dignity and refinement making him an exemplary patient. He embraced all things new and acquired knowledge effortlessly and shared it readily. He had a bottomless kindness and his generosity knew no bounds.

He was charming and he charmed.

He had a supreme command of the English language and used his vocabulary appropriately always to enlivened conversation. He was eloquent and elegant and the smallest and biggest of tasks were always performed with exactitude and a great sense of style bearing out his belief that if it is worth doing at all it is worth doing right. He was not only our scholastic mentor but also our life coach. He parented by example and it was easy to follow his example. As a father he had inexhaustible patience and boy did we test it.

He was a loyal steadfast and trustworthy friend. He treasured his friendships and worked at retaining them by making regular contact with his circle and it is testimony to him that some of his friendships endured for 85 years. Bridge Street was his birth home however he migrated to Main Street after his marriage but always retained his allegiance to Bridge Street. It was here on Saturday evenings some of his friends congregated, theories were expounded, philosophies pondered, politics debated all done with good humour then friends departed only to re-convene the following week with a brand new agenda.

He was never going to make Entrepreneur of the Year it was all about service and value to his customers – perhaps more importantly it was about the principle of dignity for the human person. He embodied this. He was unaware of the effect his company had on people - you left him feeling uplifted and perhaps, may I say with the greatest respect, more informed. His interactions were respectful and honest. Devoid of superficial flash and arrogance he endeared himself to others with his sincerity, unrelenting thoughtfulness and self effacing manner.

His passion for motorcars and all things motoring was legendary. He became a motorist at the tender age of 8 years albeit driving in a straight line. His other great interest being the Cinema in his youth he was Cavan’s unofficial film critic. He also excelled at wood work and marquetry.

His service to the community was renown and culminated in the awarding of his papal knighthood.

He always told us that the two most important words and most underused in the English language are THANK YOU so on his behalf I would like to exhaust them.

The Union would also like to exhaust them, and say thank you to his wife Kathleen, son Mannix, daughters Lily and Marie, and youngest son Tomas for sharing this great man with the Castleknock, Vincentian and wider communities beyond. Thank you.

Requiescat in Pace.

Left Lasting legacy to his beloved Cavan

The late Tom MacKenna

The death occurred at Cavan General Hospital on Tuesday of last week of Mr. Thomas MacKenna KSS, KCHS, KSC, Farnham Street, Cavan, following a brief illness. He was aged 91 and as a business man and dedicated worker for charitable causes he played an active role in the life of Cavan town and wider region for over seventy years.

Tom was born on July 6, 1920, in Bridge Street, Cavan, into what Fr. Kevin Donohoe, Adm., described as “an Ireland on the cusp of a new future, about to mark out its own future and destiny on the world stage”. In his youth he had the distinction of being one of very few boys to attend Loreto College, Cavan, along with his life-long friend William O’Hanlon, both of whom were in Miss Donnelly’s class. He later attended primary school in Belturbet, taking the train every day from Cavan Railway Station, a trip he thoroughly enjoyed. He attended St. Patrick’s College, Cavan for a few years and in his late teenage years finished his schooling in St. Vincent’s College, Castleknock,. Here tom forged a number of lifelong friendships. Among his peers were former Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave, Supreme Court Justice Tony Hederman and Taxing Master, David Bell. These friendships were celebrated last June when the “boys” got together to mark Tony Hederman’s 90th birthday. After his formal education he decided to do a little travelling which brought him across Europe where he developed a great love of Formula 1racing. In fact at one time he was in the pits in 1951 as assistant to one of the world’s greatest racing drivers of the 20th century, Argentinian Juan Manuel Fangion.

Son of the late Edward J. and Mary MacKenna (nee McAllister), an only child, he took over the management of MacKenna’s Tailoring and Outfitting in Bridge Street on the death of his father in 1948. He assumed this responsibility with real enthusiasm and with great foresight pursued a career in handcraft tailoring. In the same year Tom served a customer who was later to become his wife, Kathleen McKiernan, a native of Corlesmore. They were married in September, 1952 and Tom’s travelling itch was present even then as the honeymoon took them to London, Paris, Amsterdam, Rome, Milan, Nice and Zurich.

He was the recipient of a number of honours, religious and lay, for his work in assisting charities in the local community. One of those presentations was on his 90th birthday in July, 2010 when he was honoured at a function in Hotel Kilmore. He received a presentation from the Mayor of Cavan, Paddy O’Reilly, who praised him for his work in the formation of a number of organisations that benefited the people of Cavan. He was a founder member of Cavan Chamber of Commerce, serving on the National Council of the Association of Chambers of Commerce of Ireland, Cavan Social Services Council, Cavan Credit Union, Cavan Vintage Motor Club and Co. Cavan Motor Club. He was among those who were behind the setting up of Northern Sound Radio in 1989.

Tom’s generosity knew no bounds and he provided the town with an illuminated crib for a number of years. He was supportive of everything that was good for Cavan.

He was invited to join the local Council of the Knights of St. Columbanus in 1948 and held various offices in that organisation at local, provincial and national level. He was the first Diocesan representative of the Diocese of Kilmore on the National Council for the Laity. A member of the Pro-Life National Executive he was the convenor for Co. Cavan of the Pro-Life Campaign for each of the Referenda on Anti-Abortion and Anti-Divorce campaigns.

In July, 1999 he, along with Kevin Kilduff, was conferred with the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, one of the oldest of the Papal knighthoods dating back to 1122, at a ceremony in St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth and received a further honour to Knight Commander. The investiture on that occasion was during concelebrated Mass in which the chief celebrant was Archbishop of Armagh, Cardinal Sean Brady. It was Mr. MacKenna’s second Papal Knighthood.

On 14 September, 1997 he was created a Knight of the Pontifical Equestrian Order of Saint Sylvester, the only person ever in the Diocese of Kilmore to receive such an honour.

Mr. MacKenna ran a successful drapery and tailoring business in Bridge Street for many years with his wife Kathleen, who also ran a bar and grocery business in Main Street before the couple retired in 1996.

Tom lived a happy, contended life spurred on by his giving nature both in his business and personal life. He was immensely proud of his family and their achievements. He was a gentleman and we are the poorer for his loss.

He is survived by his wife, Kathleen; sons, Mannix and Tomás; daughters, Lily and Marie; brothers-in-law, John and Francie McKiernan; sister-in-law, Sr. Proinnsias and a number of counsins. There was a Guard of Honour of Kss, KHS and KSC members of the Knights at the removal of the remains and at the funeral.

The funeral was on Friday last from the Cathedral of Ss. Patrick and Felim, following concelebrated Mass to Killygarry Cemetery. Chief celebrant was Rev. Anthony Fagan, PP, Killinkere, provincial Chaplain of KSC; Most Rev. Dr. Leo O’Reilly DD, Bishop of Kilmore presided. Among the attendants were members of the various orders of the Knights including His Excellency, Nicholas McKenna, Lieutenant of KHS, Ireland; His Excellency Joseph McDonnell, KCSC, Dublin, Past Lieutenant of KHS, Bernard Burns, Belfast, Supreme Knight, Knights of St. Columbanus. Also among the attendance was Dr. Joseph Duffy, former Bishop of Clogher. Among the tributes to the late Mr. MacKenna was a Guard of Honour by pupils from St. Vincent’s Castleknock College.