Lives Remembered

Paddy and Alex McGreevy: Brothers' bond was close ever in final days

Alex McGreevy (left) was best man for his older brother Paddy

BROTHERS Paddy and Alex McGreevy were admitted to hospital on the same day, were both diagnosed as suffering pneumonia, and their deaths weeks later came just hours apart.

There may have been eight years and 100 miles separating them, but in their final days their bond was as tight as ever.

Paddy, in his weakened state, did not know his younger brother was also in hospital and would ask constantly 'Where's Alex?' and "Is Alex coming to visit?".

The two men had been close buddies since growing up together in Colinpark Street in west Belfast along with older brother Gerry, who died three years ago, and sisters Jean and Nell.

Their great-grandad had come from Randalstown to work as a stonemason at Clonard Monastery and Alex followed his father Alexander into a job at the nearby Workman's builders' merchants.

Paddy, meanwhile, finished at St John's school down the street as a 14-year-old one Friday and on the Monday wore long trousers for the first time to start at Napier's property company on Chichester Street.

His mother Kathleen, proud as punch that one of her children had a "white collar job" in the city centre, walked him down with his packed lunch like his first day at school.

Paddy - he was born four minutes after St Patrick's Day and stuck with a March 18 birthday despite his mother's pleas to doctors to change the record - remained an innocent abroad, happy in his routine.

He rose at 6am every day, washed from head to foot at the basin, dressed in his shirt, tie and braces and went to early Mass at Clonard, before poring over the family insertions in The Irish News.

The paper was an essential part of his day. Asked why he couldn't miss it, he would joke that "there are people dying now that never died before".

He bought a house across the road in Lanark Street, where Alex also lived, until the families were forced out at the outbreak of the Troubles.

Alex settled in Lenadoon and Paddy at Elswick Street, where his back garden was on the site of his parents' demolished home.

Paddy loved animals and took in strays, as well as buying dog food and leaving water at the front and back doors for any others.

Both brothers followed football, having kicked balls of rolled-up socks up and down the street as boys.

Alex was a Man Utd fan, while Paddy was a die-hard supporter of Celtic. He was a founder member of the St Peter's supporters club, marched up the Falls after the 1967 European Cup victory, and proudly wore his 1940s-vintage scarf to Parkhead - and made sure others continued to do so when he was too old to travel.

His only request about his funeral was that he would be buried with it.

Paddy was a great storyteller, always ready with a joke, but Alex was quieter by nature and was forced to retire from work early due to a bad chest.

And while Paddy may have been his mother's blue-eyed boy, Alex was apple of his dad's eye - he called him 'Bang-bang', and they enjoyed betting together on the horses and football.

He met his wife Sue Pollard, from Sultan Street in the lower Falls, at the Eiffel Tower ice cream shop on the corner of the Springfield and Grosvenor Roads.

Alex adored life with her and their children Liam, John, Paul and Marie, although they suffered tragedy with the death of Liam at the age of 38 in a car crash in 2001.

The arrival of grandchildren was a great blessing, as well as a great-grandchild.

Paddy, meanwhile, met his wife Eileen Stewart, from Lagan Street in the Markets, in Crossey's shop in Cupar Street where she worked and they became proud parents to three girls - Nuala, Pauline and Kathy.

A hopeless romantic, he would scour the town for the right card each Valentine's Day, and never recovered from her death in 2014.

Alex moved to Bundoran 20 years ago for the sea air but he and Paddy talked almost daily on the phone, recalling old adventures together on the Falls.

Both men were admitted to hospital at the end of December and later were anointed in the same week.

Paddy died aged 84 on Saturday February 10, followed by Alex , aged 76, less than 24 hours later.

Paddy was fittingly buried alongside his wife in Milltown on Valentine's Day, while Alex was laid to rest the same day in St Ninnidh's Cemetery in Bundoran.

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Lives Remembered