Off he went into the sunset

David Lynch


David Lynch

Off he went into the sunset

Francis Brennan's passing in the early hours of last Friday morning came peacefully in the end, with close family there to see him off.

The last couple of years were tough on my grandfather, of that there can be little doubt. But the man that was such a presence throughout so much of my life remained so right up to the end.

However, instead of recounting the end, it's better to look a little at the life. A vast life of which there's so much. This is merely a snapshot really. An obscenely limited show-reel, if you will.

Francie, as he was known, was an entertainer. A lovable rascal. But most importantly, a family man.

My grandfather was larger than life. At six-foot tall he was a striking physical presence. Yet it was his gregarious personality that so many have spoken of over the last few days.

Sure he had been out of 'local life' for many years due to his declining health, but that was never going to stop him entertaining us all.

He used to hold court in Sexton's (O'Carroll's for those of a more modern persuasion) on the corner of Seatown. My grandfather could challenge anyone in the verbals, so to speak. Never intimidating, but with a razor-sharp tongue and a quick-fire line in humour, he could mix it up with the best of them. And even if he came out on the wrong side, he would undoubtedly have the last word. His seat was at the bar, against the partition and directly opposite the front door. He'd have a word for everyone and anyone that darkened the doorway - young or old.

There's a black and white photograph in the front room of my grandparents home of him as Jafar from the musical Aladdin. I can't recollect the year, but Francie was a keen amateur actor in his day, by all accounts. In the photo he's sweeping his arms out to his side - a mid-action pose immortalised. Only he could make something so ridiculous look so funny - his long limbs and knowing facial expressions would alone be enough to trigger a snigger.

And that was him all over. He was never one to take himself that seriously. He'd just as soon poke fun at himself as anybody else.

He helped organise many of the Christmas shows back then too. No matter how stuck they were for money - and more often than not they were, he'd find a way to make sure everyone got paid up, even if it left him out of pocket and my granny cursing.

When I think about it now, in nearly every picture of Francie that I have seen, he is smiling. He's probably just after telling a joke, or a story - long, and tall. Your eyes cannot help but be drawn to him.

I used to go over to the old library, on Chapel Street, when I was younger and rifle through the myriad of cowboy titles for him. You see, my grandfather was the last of the cowboys in many ways. He loved nothing more than reading about Wild West adventures.

I think he loved them so much because there was little ambiguity with the plots or story-lines. There was the good guy, and there was the bad guy - that was it. Somebody needed help and the good guy rode into town and saved the day.

In fact, he loved them so much that to ensure we, the grandchildren, didn't pick out one he had already read he would circle page number 17. This led to a long drawn-out search to find 'the one' without this secret marking. Despite this fail safe I'm fairly sure he read every one of them twice or even three times over.

The last time I spoke with him was the previous Saturday. He had been a resident in Blackrock Abbey Nursing Home for just a short few weeks at that stage. He was frail, but the old Francie was still there. We played cards and he gave his thoughts on the general election. He even sang a song or two, such was his way.

One minute he could have you crying with laughter and the very next you'd be in tears as he sang 'Under the Bridges of Paris' or some wartime heartbreak classic.

Boy did he know how to work a crowd.

And that's how I'll remember him best. Enthralling everyone with a song or a story.

The last of the cowboys has headed off into the sunset.

Take a bow Francie.

Curtains down.