BORN in a thatched cottage in Clonbullogue on April 13, 1922 to a family of four, John Joe Coyne lived life to the full. His recent passing at the age of 96 was received with sadness but also with gratitude for his long and healthy life.
Although he only went to school until he was 13, John Joe had a head for business and was able to continue working right up until his 70s. On leaving school he joined his father who was a pig dealer. Starting off with a horse and cart, he would go to Cavan twice a week with pigs. The journey would take him about two days. Later on he bought himself a lorry for £1,300 and according to his nephew Brendan Coyne, it was like manna from heaven for him.
His late brother James then joined the business and together they travelled the length and breath of Ireland selling pigs. In the end they had three lorries on the road buying pigs in Wexford and selling them in Cavan.
In addition they did business in Dublin. In those days it was customary for hotels to have an area at the back where they reared their own pigs. “The first owner of the Spa Hotel in Lucan, had such a place. Food from the hotel was fed to the pigs and then the hoteliers sold the pigs and made a few bob,” said Brendan.
Another important customer for John Joe was Peamount Sanatorium in Dublin. “He was very well liked there and he sold a large amount of pigs to them,” recounts Brendan.
John Joe continued in the pig business until the 1970s when swine flu came to Ireland. He then decided to go into cattle and he joined with the Byrne brothers in Edenderry who owned the livestock mart there which opened in 1963. He spent 20 years with them, up to the age of 74.
During that time he made a lot of friends, including Charlie Haughey and his wife Maureen. He often visited the Haughey house. He also knew Ben Dunne and his sister Margaret Heffernan.
Not one to sit on his laurels, when he retired he undertook a small bit of farming at home where he kept a few cattle “just to keep his mind occupied,” outlined Brendan.
John Joe was an avid reader and Brendan said it was a pity he didn’t go further in school as he could have become a vet. He had a great interest in animals, and read voraciously. He also enjoyed reading about the GAA and loved biographies and history.
“He was a great man for history and 1916. His mother was a Doorley from Clara and they were steeped in the troubles at the time. When the Black and Tans invaded Ireland they invaded her house as a young girl,” outlined Brendan.
The Principal of the local school at the time was Pat Shanahan and he used to call to John Joe when the children were doing history class and wanted to know about the village of Clonbullogue, shops and the local landlords.
John Joe had a passion for the GAA and even though he drove to Dublin six days a week, every Sunday he rested by going back to Dublin again but this time to a match in Croke Park which he always enjoyed.
He was a staunch Fine Gael supporter and was the oldest member of the party. Minister Charlie Flanagan was in attendance for his funeral. “He would have loved that and be very proud,” said Brendan. However, despite his love for Fine Gael he had an open mind and was always willing to debate issues with Fianna Fail supporters. He even gave to the Fianna Fail church gate collections.
A healthy and fit man he never drank or smoked and was a member of the Pioneer Society.
He ate a bowl of porridge and an orange for his breakfast every morning and loved fish. He also enjoyed fruit. He was never seriously ill and was never in hospital. If he got a cold or flu he would go immediately to the doctor to nip it in the bud. He had his teeth checked yearly and didn’t attendan optician until he was 95 when he had to have cataracts removed. He also drove until he was 95 when he announced that he wanted to cancel his insurance. “I’m not going to continue driving,” he told Brendan, who was relieved as he had been worried about him, “but I had to let him take the first step,” he added.
Religioun played an important role in John Joe’s life and he never missed Sunday Mass. He also had a deep respect for the clergy.
A dapper man he would only buy clothing from Galvin’s in Tullamore. Brendan said he helped Paul Galvin’s father move from a premises across the road to where the shop is located now on William Street. When Galvin’s was renovated Paul asked John Joe to cut the ribbon which he saw as a huge honour.
John Joe never married. His nephew believes he did have some girlfriends but he was so busy that he didn’t have the time. He was a very happy man and a father figure to Brendan who lost his own father in 1998 when Brendan was 21.
John Joe lived with Brendan’s family who took care of him all his life. In the last few weeks of his life he had problems with his hip and had to undergo surgery which he got through. However, he later contracted infections which caused his demise.
He had made arrangements himself to go into Oakdale nursing home in Portarlington as he said to Brendan, “I don’t want to be burden on your mother.”
“As long as he had food and a roof over his head,” he was happy. He didn’t want a big house, flash car or big lifestyle. He lived a simple life,” said Brendan.