The original Déiseach has died. There will be plenty of obituaries, positive, negative and even a few neutral ones. It would be preposterous to suggest that I knew much about the man, but given my appropriation of his nom de plume (guerre?) for online purposes – find deiseach on the web and the odds are that it is yours truly, unless you went to Degrassi Junior High – it would be strange to let his passing pass by without comment.
The fact that he strode the Waterford GAA scene like a colossus for several decades might be important too. Pat Fanning, as he was universally known in our family, was in one way a figure of mystique – former President of the association which seemed a very big deal in the days when Waterford’s only contribution to the GAA scene seemed to be an object lesson in how not to run things. Yet this was a giant whose grandchildren I was pretty well acquainted with. A man who managed to juggle the seemingly contradictory impulses of being conservative enough to want to retain the infamous ban on GAA members playing soccer and rugby, yet was statesmanlike enough to effectively prevent a split in the association when it became clear that the settled will was to abandon The Ban. Someone who was so partisan about Mount Sion that when I asked my uncle, a fine hurler in his day with De La Salle, whether he was really that bad that said uncle, not a man given to overblown comments, observed that an occasion arose when he (my uncle, not Pat) was instrumental in a shock DLS win over MS and Déiseach couldn’t bring himself to mention his name in the News & Star report. Yet this was a partisan who when he met my brother a number of years back beamed with delight to be introduced to the nephew of the man whom he confirmed was indeed a fine hurler in his day.
So my impressions of the man and the myth are contradictory, to say the least. In the final analysis though, in a week where I read how a games journalist spent 1.7% of the last decade playing World of Warcraft, you wonder how much of Pat Fanning’s life was devoted to the association that he loved. It’s a legacy of service that, as this remarkable article from the Evening Herald about his son’s work in Dublin testifies, ripples out to this day and will do so for generations to come. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.
Update: comments thread on AFR here.
Update II: article from Dermot Crowe of the Sindo here (h/t to Clonliffe Cat over on AFR).