New bench is a perfect tribute to a special man

By Paddy Walsh

It was not often, if ever, that Packie Bonner occupied the bench during his playing career but long beyond it he had the opportunity on a recent evening in Letterkenny to do just that.

The former Celtic and Republic of Ireland goalkeeper was in town to unveil a seat in honour of the late John ‘Gorey’ Curran who, he said, was one of those who helped pave the way for that distinguished career at the top level.
The beautifully crafted bench – the work of John Daly & Sons Memorials – is located at the Oldtown Bridge and was proposed by the Letterkenny Community Heritage Group.


It was left to the safe hands of Packie to cut the ribbon and reveal the finished product.

Speaking later to the impressive, and impressed, attendance in nearby Dillons Hotel, including ‘Gorey’s widow, Betty and other family members, the Burtonport native said he had the privilege of meeting ‘Gorey’ on many occasions at FAI gatherings in Dublin and on various trips.

At a time when there was no social media, it was, he said, all about building up relationships with people and communicating with people.
“And ‘Gorey’ was the best at it. He had a smile, he had a way of meeting you, he had a way of shaking your hand and a way of making you feel that you were a very special person.”

It was a night to thank ‘Gorey’ and his wife, Betty and family and a night to remember.
Packie also wanted to honour all the people he had met on the night, acknowledging those other footballing personalities in Donegal who had helped give him and Shay Given the opportunity to represent their country, reflecting particularly on people such as Dessie Kelly, Paddy McFadden and Richie Kelly.

Packie Bonner and members of the Curran family at last week’s event. Photo: Paul Maguire

Stating that he was honoured to be present he voiced the hope that as many as possible would take the opportunity to sit on the seat at least once and remember ‘Gorey’ and think about his life and what he had contributed to the community.
“That seat will keep his memory alive and perhaps Dessie will have another seat beside it!.”

Packie paid tribute to the Letterkenny Community Heritage Group for their involvement in advocating the memorial bench.
Chairperson of the Heritage Group, Johnny Joe McCollum told the attendance that when ‘Gorey’s’ name had been mentioned at a meeting they had all agreed unanimously that he deserved to be honoured in this way.


He recalled he and his pals passing by the then Curran home at Lower Main Street beside the Devlin Hall and seeing all the football jerseys hanging out on the line.
“‘Gorey’ was a great man but we can’t forget Betty because she had to wash all those football jerseys. And there weren’t many washing machines around then!.”

John ‘Gorey’ Curran. Photo: Stephen Doherty

Representing the family, Sheila Curran described it as a very privileged occasion for them – they had been very proud when told about the seat.
She spoke of her father’s involvement in the Summer Cups in the 1950’s and subsequently with Letterkenny Crusaders and the Donegal Youth League, recalling him inspiring the young people to become involved in the local teams such as Glencar, Oldtown and Ballyraine. He had helped span that interest around the county and had been proud to represent Ulster on the F.A.I.

“And I suppose one of my father’s greatest moments was when the Donegal Youth Team won the F.A.I. Youth Cup back in 2003 in Ballyare.” After all the graft and hard work to get proper facilities for soccer in Donegal, that win in the F.A.I. Cup was etched in his memory, Sheila reflected.

In her day, ladies did not get the opportunity to play football but eventually they did and her father had been part of that progression. And now they had three players involved in the Irish women’s international squad.
In conclusion, Sheila acknowledged the Heritage Group for the work in locating the seat and the hard graft put in by John Daly & Sons Memorials with whom her brother, Cormac, was employed.

Earlier in the evening, following the official unveiling, M.C. for the occasion Brian Walsh recalled a summer’s day in 1991 while he was walking down Dublin’s Grafton Street and stopped to watch a football match that was blaring from a television in a shop window and realised it was the World Cup clash between Ireland and Romania from the previous year.

He stood and watched it on his own but by the time extra-time and penalties were taking place, there were between fifty to seventy people watching on. “And bizarrely while we all knew the outcome there was a palpable sense of tension as we looked on.”

Back in Dillon’s Hotel no such tension existed – just a strong sense of pride and community. And presentations were made to one of the key performers in that game thirty-four years ago, Packie Bonner, including a publication launched last year by the Heritage Group focusing on the equally famous Donegal Summer Cups.

There was also a special presentation to Betty Curran though not, as the M.C. indicated, a “pile of washing’! On the morning of the unveiling, the latter had gone to New Leck cemetery to visit the grave of ‘Gorey’ Curran who passed away 17 years ago.

And read out the inscription on the headstone to those assembled for the occasion in Dillon’s:
“You always had a smile to share; Time to give, time to care; A loving nature, kind and true; These are the memories we have of you.”
And now a marble bench to further cherish those memories.

Receive quality journalism wherever you are, on any device. Keep up to date from the comfort of your own home with a digital subscription.
Any time | Any place | Anywhere

and get access to our archive editions dating back to 2007
Every Thursday
Every Monday

Donegal News is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. St. Anne's Court, Letterkenny, County Donegal, Ireland