Carlow County - Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP TM)

Liam Whitney

By Sean 0’Laoghaire

Liam Whitney

Many visitors to Governey Park, Graiguecullen, wonder why one of the avenues there is called Whitney Place. Many of the younger generation too are unaware who Whitney was. The answer is the avenue was so called to honour and perpetuate the name of a great Graiguecullen man, Liam Whitney.

William Whitney was born in Sletty Street, Graiguecullen on 11 May 1915. His father was Thomas Whitney and his mother was Mary Kenny of Moone, Co. Kildare.

Whitneys’ (as it was popularly called) was at the extreme end of the row of small houses then forming Sletty Street. The house was very conspicuous as it was the only two-storey building on the row. Liam was the second eldest of a family of five boys and one girl. He attended Graiguecullen B.N.S. where he was an outstanding pupil. He was a diligent student and took a particular interest in the Irish Language and Irish History. It was not surprising therefore, that all through his life he signed himself Liam De Fuitne; spoke Irish whenever possible, and urged those with whom he came into contact to use any Irish words they knew, no matter how simple they might be.

After leaving Graiguecullen School he attended the Technical School in Carlow. Even in later years when in employment he continued to attend various classes in the Technical School.

Liam got employment in Knockbeg College where he eventually rose to the position of charge hand. Being skillful in carpentry and building he was indispensable about the college. He had also charge of the livestock in which he took a keen interest. Liam gave them the same attention as if they really belonged to himself. However, most people in Carlow knew him as the man who came into town in the car to buy various provisions for the College. The College authorities knowing that he was a young man of high intelligence and absolute integrity entrusted him with this work and their trust was not misplaced.

As his father and mother had died at a comparatively early age Liam worked hard after hours to supplement the family income. He was ready at all times to do any work on farm or elsewhere which would bring in money to rear and educate the younger members of the family.

However, Liam thought of others as well as his own. Anyone in need had only to mention it and he was ready to help: to repair a leaking roof, to dig a garden for some old person, to finance parents unable to clothe their children for Holy Communion or Confirmation etc. etc. In a word Liam was a real Christian gentleman. His charity was unbounded, he was a man of his word. He said he would do a thing it was done. He was absolutely honest and in Goldsmith’s words “He owed not any man. ’’He was forthright in his views. His listeners knew he meant what he said. There was no shilly shallying about him.

As a Gaelic Football enthusiast he was known far and wide. He was the driving force in Graiguecullen G.F. Club where he was Treasurer and Secretary for many years. His house was the G.A.A. headquarters where jerseys were stored, teams selected, matches re-played. bruises healed. As it overlooked Fennell’s Field The Old Football Ground - it seemed to keep constant watch over the Gaelic activities.

Liam’s ambition was to have a proper playing pitch for Graiguecullen. He inspired the other members of the club to collect funds to purchase a suitable field. Unfortunately he had passed away before the dream had become a reality with the opening of Fr. Maher Park. I am sure that from Heaven he often looks down at that spacious arena.

Like his uncle Pakey (another famous Whitney in his day) Liam took a deep and active interest in politics; this was not surprising as he was always a great student of the chequered history of his native land.

Liam was blessed with a particularly good singing voice and in the mid 1940’s was a member of the famous St. Fiacc’s Choir which broadcast from Radio Eireann several times and was heard at concerts in many parts of the country for many years. With his usual thoroughness Liam never missed a choir practice or concert engagement and he was very disappointed when eventually the group disbanded.

Liam died unexpectedly on 11th March 1957 in the prime of life. However, he passed to his eternal reward as he would have wished, working in the College he had served so well, surrounded by the priests to whom he had given such devoted service. I bhFlaitheas De go raibh a anam dilis.

When the houses were built in the Sletty portion of Graiguecullen the people urged the Urban Council to call one of the streets after the man who had been for long such a wonderful figure in the village. Hence in Graiguecullen we have today ‘‘Whitney Place’’ as a last ing memorial to a local man who was a great Christian and a grand specimen of Irish manhood. Let us hope that many will try to follow in his footsteps.

'This was previously published in the The Parish of KILLESHIN, Graiguecullen'. by P.MacSuibhne. 1972. (no longer in print)

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