Lives Remembered

'Life for Pat McEniff was like an apple tree - take it and shake it and never be afraid to enjoy its fruits'

THE camera does not lie, and if ever a photograph captures the heart and soul of a great character then this one is pure gold.

This is the late, great former dental surgeon Dr Pat McEniff from Belleek in all his glory... a hint of mirth and mischief in that strong face, as he looked life in the eye and neither blinked nor backed down.

The black hat and white jacket are striking, and they are meant to be, because Pat was always colourful and charismatic - a true larger-than-life figure who tasted it through the teeth.

Like his late brother Sean, life for Pat was like an apple tree - take it and shake it and never be afraid to enjoy its fruits.

But like Sean and all the rest of his family, he was also a hard worker, a polymath who was equally at home discussing science, politics (for which he had an astute, acerbic eye) and history, or more accurately local history which he loved with a passion.

He would have made a great history lecturer as he was a great storyteller, a bon viveur whose wit and delivery was as sharp and direct as an Exocet missile

Pat fired from the hip and part of his unique charm was that you were never quite sure what he was going to come out with next.

He had a wonderful encylopaedic memory for days and dates and always said what he meant and thankfully there was hardly a politically correct bone in his body.

But he had a wonderful earthy, engaging sense of humour and treated us all the same.

Pat often held court in the Thatch Coffee Shop in Belleek in latter years. He knew everybody and if he did not, he could rectify that in a heartbeat.

He had a great passion for Donegal GAA (his younger brother Brian guided Donegal to their first All-Ireland title in 1992), for his native Bundoran and for Donegal.

And he also loved Tyrone, the county of his much-loved late mother Elizabeth Begley from Carrickmore, and he was a cousin of the great country and western singer Philomena Begley.

But that was dwarfed by the immense pride he had in his own family.

Pat was born into the highly successful McEniff business family in Bundoran.

He was the third eldest of the children of Monaghan native John and Elizabeth, who worked hard to build up what became a business empire.

Liam and the late Sean, who was a very successful Fianna Fail politician, were older while Brian and Mary are his younger siblings.

Like the rest of the family, Pat worked hard in the family hotel.

And he had fond memories of dancing in the famous Astoria Ballroom in the 1950s and early '60s.

On graduating as a dentist from UCD, for whom he boxed and had several knock-outs, Pat worked as a dentist in Belfast's Shankill Road before moving to Ballyshannon in the late 1960s.

He bought a practice in Enniskillen and worked there from 1972-1995 and became a very well-known figure in the north west.

Pat bought his home in Belleek in the late 1960s and took a big interest in the area.

He struck up a great friendship with the late GP Dr Brian Finn who was an equally charismatic and witty man and they set up a boat building company in Belleek.

But Pat also had literary talents and he wrote the very well received Thelmas's People, a racy thriller set at the height of the Troubles.

Pat was a life-long and very active member of Bundoran Golf Club and oversaw many developments.

But his greatest gift was that he loved people, he loved listening to their yarns and telling an even better one himself, and could puncture a windbag in a nanosecond.

Pat was a huge part of our lives around Belleek for many generations and he is deeply missed and mourned.

He was a big man, with a big heart and he always made an impression - his sheer character and impish charisma came as natural to him as breathing.

It can neither be bottled or bought, but Pat had it in buckets.

Pat McEniff passed away on December 9.

He is sadly missed by his loving wife Maureen, children Patrick, Dara, Nessa and Eimear, his 15 adoring grandchildren, daughters-in-law Kathleen and Eimear, sons-in-law Alan and Rónán, brothers Liam and Brian, sister Mary, nephews, nieces and entire family circle and his many friends.

Pat was predeceased by his parents John and Elizabeth and brother Sean.

Gerry McLaughlin

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Lives Remembered