Ballinrobe GAA club regrets to announce the death today (18 August 2023), of a much-loved club member and former President, Tony Walkin (85), Creagh Road, Ballinrobe. He had borne the cross of illness bravely for the past number of months.
A man of many parts, Tony was known all over Ireland – and, indeed, further afield – for his love of Gaelic football. He travelled far and wide to support Ballinrobe and Mayo teams and his great interest in people, and his capacity to entertain others, meant that he established firm friendships wherever he went.
A native of Ardagh, Ballina, Tony played football with Ballina Stephenites. When he met and married Irene Ryder, a member of a well-known Ballinrobe business family, Tony relocated to Ballinrobe in 1962 and quickly became an integral part of the community, including playing for our club. Irene and Tony enjoyed a wonderful bond, and the club is particularly cognisant of the loss she is experiencing at this time.
He opened a business on Main Street that over the years engaged in a variety of pursuits. Tony learned the German language and became a trusted point of contact for Germans moving to Ireland, often sourcing sites or properties in the region where they could build or renovate properties. At the back, he had a small public house.
He ran a travel agency – again, German visitors were a key customer segment – and he developed a fine trade in giftware. The business continues to the present day and is now operated by Tony’s daughter Mary and her husband John.
Ballinrobe benefitted from his seemingly boundless energy. A stalwart of various local organisations, including the Town Development Company, Tidy Towns and the Town Hall, Tony was at the heart of everything positive in Ballinrobe. His work with the Society of St Vincent de Paul was not as well known as he carried it out with admirable discretion but suffice it to say that many local people were grateful for his quiet generosity at difficult times in their lives.
With great affection and even greater sadness, we say “Tony was Tony”. His avuncular personality found expression on the stage as he was a performing member of Ballinrobe Musical Society for six decades. His final show was The Pirates of Penzance in 2020. He served in an administrative capacity on many occasions. Other affiliations he cherished were his involvement with Mayo Male Voice Choir and his lifelong membership of the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association.
Despite all of the foregoing commitments, Tony somehow found time for the GAA Club. He was an ever-present at club events and served in a variety of administrative and management positions within our club, including as a long-serving county board delegate.
On away trips to other clubs or counties, Tony assumed an almost ambassadorial role as he engaged with friends – be they new or just-formed – to enquire about the fortunes of the local team. If you travelled with Tony, you were virtually certain that he’d get you into the tea-room for some refreshments before or after the game – people simply warmed to him whenever he went.
His faithful companions on many of those trips were his clubmates Billy Horan, who passed away last year, and Michael Coyne, all three of them glorying in the moniker by which their entourage became known – The Last of the Summer Wine, in deference to the TV programme of the same name.
Tony’s family also served the club with distinction. Paddy, Peter, Tony Jnr and Mark played at all levels for Ballinrobe, winning numerous titles, while Tony Jnr featured on the Mayo minor team which contested the 1991 All-Ireland final, losing to Cork.
Peter, Mark and Tony have worked in coaching and administrative capacities, with Peter serving as club chairman in the early to mid-2000s. Though domiciled in New York, Paddy retains a strong interest in Ballinrobe GAA Club.
Tony’s grandchildren have also worn the maroon and yellow of Ballinrobe. In 2015, granddaughter Sarah Finnegan earned the distinction of landing the first score recorded by the club’s reformed ladies football wing in an under-age challenge game with The Neale.
Tony is survived by his wife Irene, children Mary, Paddy (USA), Paula (Fermanagh), Elaine, Peter (Dunmore), Tony and Mark, sister Maura (Ballaghaderreen), brothers John (Ballina), PJ (Ballina), Gerry (UK), Shamus (Ballina), Eamon (Ballina), and Vincent (Doc, Dublin), sons-in-law John, James, Kevin, daughters-in-law Mary Ann, Joan, Denise and Marie, sisters-in-law, 13 adored grandchildren, nephews, nieces, relatives, neighbours and a large circle of friends.
As a mark of respect to Tony, a minute’s silence will be held at all club events this weekend, including our Mayo IFC clash with Burrishoole on Saturday evening in Newport. The club will form a guard of honour to give a fitting send-off to a man who made a very rich contribution to the lives of our members and to his adopted community.
Funeral arrangements are as follows: reposing at his residence (F31 H308) on Saturday from 4.00pm to 7pm. Removal from his residence on Sunday morning to St Mary’s Church, Ballinrobe, for Funeral Mass at 11.30am with burial afterwards in New Cemetery, Ballinrobe. Funeral Mass will be streamlined live on Cummins Funeral Directors page.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.
Donations, if desired, to the Mayo Roscommon Hospice, c/o Cummins Funeral Directors or https://www.hospice.ie/donations/in-loving-memory/
- John Sweeney, Chairman, Ballinrobe GAA Club