Farewell, Octo

It was a quiet enough week. Work has been tipping along. The fire service continues to be on something of a go-slow, despite one very long call to a hay barn fire this Friday. I’ve cut back on the running to three short sessions this week (well, I may sneak out tomorrow!) after the two-week blitz recently.

But we had some sad news a few days ago. A local Leixlip man passed away. He was a retired firefighter with the Dublin Brigade, and had gone on to set up a very successful bike shop on the outskirts of town. I bought a few bikes from him over the years, and whenever I was in, we would chat about the old days. He was a staunch supporter of the local watering hole too. It would be an odd evening if I didn’t see Noel at the bar of The Salmon Leap, having a chat with friends and neighbours. We had a few other things in common too: Noel was from Palmerstown, and grew up a stone’s throw from my wife’s road. And Noel went on to marry Mary Casey, the eldest girl of a large family from the Mill Lane, where we live today. Ireland truly is a small place.

Noel was a huge supporter of Irish cycling. His Dad Ollie dominated the sport in the 1940s, with multiple titles across the board, including road and track, and time-trials to 100 mile events. These days, that would be unheard of. The war and disputes about jurisdictions would cost him an Olympic appearance. He was 6′ 3″ and he passed on those genes to Noel.

Noel was, of course, a fine cyclist, and he in turn passed the bug on to the next generation. I was only in his shop the day before he died though I’m sorry to say I didn’t see him. In truth, he was happiest upstairs in the workshop putting things together, or in the ‘serious bikes’ display, and left the younger lads downstairs to handle sales.

I have shamelessly pilfered this image from the The Echo, and their caption says it best: Ollie Kelly’s grandson Ruairi and son Noel with Ollie’s recently restored Rudge bike on which he won many Irish national titles back in the 1940s. Photo by Paddy Barrett.

It’s a lovely article, and you can read the full piece here. It was published just last year (on my birthday, I note).

Due to current restrictions, we could only stand outside to show our respects this morning. A few of us donned our blues (firefighter fatigues) and stood to attention outside the church as the cortege passed by. And afterwards I met one of his Dublin firefighting colleagues, and he mentioned that Noel’s nickname was Octo, because he was ‘all arms and legs’, like an octopus. I hadn’t heard that one before. But in fairness, the Dublin brigade is legendary for handing out nicknames, and most of them are unprintable, so if you have a good one like Octo, it’s safe to say you had earned their respect.

Last week, I had decided I no longer wanted to be be the owner of a white road bike, so I stripped it down and rubbed up the frame and brought it up to my colleague who is both a firefighter and a mechanic with a body shop. So getting it sprayed and lacquered is not a big problem… unless he’s busy, which he generally is, but when you are getting favours, you learn to have patience (and remember to bring doughnuts to the garage). It was why I had popped into Noel’s shop; to pick up a 10 speed Quick Link.

So I’ll be thinking of Noel over the coming week or two as I piece the bike back together. I put the decals on this afternoon and it’s looking very smart indeed. I’ve ordered some snazzy new bar tape and cleaned up the old stuff and stripped out the cables. New bottle cages too… all the gear! I’ll stick up a few pictures when it’s done. I’m not sure what Noel would have thought of it all; he wasn’t a man for fussing about that sort of thing. He’d be more interested in whether you could actually ride the bike, not paint it.

Slán abhaile, Noel. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

9 thoughts on “Farewell, Octo

  1. I think one of the most hateful impacts of Covid is how it prevents us from properly saying goodbye to our friends and loved ones. I wonder will we ever return to traditional wakes and funeral customs. Rest in Peace Octo 😔

    Liked by 1 person

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