Helen Deane and the Cloughjordan Singing Group

A few weeks back I was busy in Nenagh working when the mobile started to buzz. I answered the phone and there was a cracked voice on the other end of the line, I couldn’t quite make out what the person at the other end of the line was saying to me and the conversation abruptly ended due to the phone cutting out. Anyone who owns a mobile phone in North Tipperary would have experience with calls dropping half way through. I thought maybe it was a wrong number, I tried calling back, but the network was down for some time and I was unable to complete a return call, so I forgot about it.

A few days later the mobile started buzzing again and once again I could make out a cracked voice down the other end of the line, this time thankfully the mobile operators network fairies were at work that day and I was able to hold a full conversation with the person at the other end of the line. The caller was Helen Deane (nee Williams) from Cloughjordan who called me to ask if I was the person who ran The Finest, to which I answered that I was. Helen then proceeded to enquire if I would be able to drop up to visit her in Cloughjordan as she had something to pass on through me to two different people who had been featured in The Finest over the last few editions. We made an arrangement to meet and a few days later my wife and I set out to visit Cloughjordan to meet Helen Deane. I followed the directions and made my way up to the Thomas Mc Donagh Heritage Centre in Cloughjordan and cut across to meet with Helen at home. Helen lives in the house in Cloughjordan where one of North Tipperary’s most famous son’s was born, Thomas Mc Donagh, one of seven leaders of the Easter rising of 1916 and a signatory of the Proclamation of Irish Independence.


Four days before I met with Helen Deane she was once again doing her bit for charity through purchasing lines for a charity draw in Cloughjordan. There were two teenaged girls who had called in to her to sell the lines, Helen stepped in to the back room to try to find her purse and while her attention was drawn away for a few minutes her purse was swiped and she was robbed of €400. Despite this bad experience just days before, she picked up the telephone to me and called us up to collect the money that had been raised by the music group for the two local causes. It was only when I met Helen that the full extent of what she was going through became clear to me. Helen came out to meet us upon arrival and invited us in to her home. I noticed straight away when meeting Helen the reason for the cracked voice on the phone, Helen explained to us that she has cancer in three different parts of her body, her condition was quite frail and yet there was a light emanating from her which was evident from her smile. We sat down in Helen’s sitting room and she began to explain to us the purpose of our visit to her.

On the third Tuesday of the month a singing group meets in the Clough Inn to make music together. The group plays a mixture of traditional music, folk music, country music and the odd pop song together. The group is made up from musicians from Cloughjordan, Borrisokane and even Roscrea who enjoy spending their time together making music. Helen told us that she had a discussion with her brother Tom Williams about two different stories that she had read through The Finest. One was about a young boy called Peter McKay from just outside Thurles who had really been through a very difficult time due to his health, the young lad has already endured two heart surgeries and the second was about a young girl in Dublin with Cerebral Palsy and a family from Roscrea now living in Borrisokane who went out of their way to help her. The group set about running a few music nights to help raise a few Euro for the two causes, showing the true quality of the people of the area. For the rest of that day we were left with an incredible sense, an indescribable sensation, to put it mildly we were somewhat stunned by what had transpired that morning.

We went to meet Peter McKay in person to hand deliver the donation to his family. One thing will stick with me for a long time to come, when we met Wee Peter in person the poor lad was terrified, to the point of being in a flood of tears. During his time on earth Peter has spent so much of his time in hospital and when he meets new people they often turn out to be medical people which he obviously associates with pain. It was a humbling experience to meet wee Peter McKay that day.


Later that evening we also met with Edel Breen and young Sophie Breen. Edel was in shock that such a generous gesture had been made and was literally reduced to tears. Sometimes the things that you do effect a change in your life, over the last few months there have been people who have made me see things somewhat differently in the world. To me, the beauty of this story is how three totally separate lives came together if only for a fleeting moment and through this something very special happened.

The Finest

Author: The Finest

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