Lives Remembered

Micheál Mac Giolla Easbuig: 'The Chief' loved life, people, his country and its language

"THE Chief" is dead and we are all definitely poorer for his passing.

In the words of his own great Gaeilge, Micheál Mac Giolla Easbuig was a fear geanúil, fear leánnta, fear cineálta, fear greanmhar, ach thar aon ni eile... fear uasal.

He gave this writer a wonderful interview for a Local Legends series, and his lovely wife Bernadette put up a meal fit for a king.

And that was Micheál too, a bright, kind, generous man who carried a great intellect lightly and had the ability to make complex things sound very simple.

And of course, there was that distinctive deep belly laugh from a man who loved life, loved people and their yarns and loved to entertain and be entertained.

He fought a courageous battle against cancer and other ailments for many years with inimitable good humour that always saw the sun in the strangest of places.

My visit to his home near Muckross will always live in the memory as he gave me a wonderful education on Kilcar and Donegal GAA and his fight against illness.

And all of it was told in those wry tones, with great wisdom, empathy and not a scintilla of self-pity.

He was not called "The Chief" for nothing, for he had that natural gravitas and grace of the leader that can neither be bottled or bought.

Micheál was a charismatic and highly effective Donegal County Chairman in the 1980s who ruled wisely and well.

He could defuse potential booby traps in a heartbeat with a quip or a wave of his hand.

He was also a very respected GAA Central Council delegate for many years and was especially close to the late Uachtarán Joe McDonagh.

But perhaps his greatest contribution was to his beloved Cill Chartha, the club he served with such distinction as the man who introduced organized training, who was a great administrator and who helped develop Towney into one of the most picturesque pitches in the country.

I can never recall Micheál without a smile close to his face and that smile made many feel warm, welcomed and valued.

He loved his country and especially its language and wrote a number of learned books as Gaelige.

For many years he interviewed older people and collected folklore and social history of Kilcar and surrounding areas which are a priceless legacy.

Micheál was a true duine ildánach, a man for all seasons who could walk with kings and commoners with equal facility.

He knew who he was and he was always the same, erudite, eloquent, impish and oh so sage and wise.

It was a privilege to have met him and to have learned from him, for he had all the social graces, all the language and lore of his people who went before him and all the wisdom of the old Gaelic chiefs.

And I just know that he and the great Joe McDonagh are quietly sinking black pints of porter in another Gaelic Ireland beyond the stars, in a place where there is no more pain, only friendship, songs and stories.

Micheál passed away on December 11 and is survived by his wife Bernadette, son Cormac and extended family .

Gerry McLaughlin

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