My Dad's 99th birth anniversary

My ordination day, 20 December 1967, with Dad, Mam and my brother Paddy.

My late Dad, John Coyle, was born 99 years ago today - or possibly yesterday. He was never quite sure whether his birthday was the 26th or 27th but finally opted for the latter.

He is still the biggest influence in my life because of the quiet way he lived his deep faith as a husband, father, neighbour, carpenter and general foreman for many years on building sites. One of his strongest characteristics was his respect for others. He went to Mass every day, including the day he died suddenly, 11 August 1987.

Dad also influenced my taste in popular music. He loved a good tune. Sometimes he would 'doodle' on the piano but couldn't play it. One of his great favourites was Charlie Kunz, in the video above, an American-born bandleader and pianist who settled in England. He would sometimes tell me about the time he saw Charlie perform in the old Theatre Royal in Dublin before World War II.

He and my mother, Mary, were very good ballroom dancers. That is one of the reasons I'm able to write this blog. They had been going together for a while but split up amicably. Some time later my mother was given two tickets for a dress dance (a formal ball). She asked her mother what she should do with the tickets. She said, 'Invite Joe'. 'Joe' was the name my mother and her family used for Dad. To others he was 'John'. But Joseph was his second Christian name.

One of the photos on display in our house was of my parents at a dress dance my father looking elegant in his white bow-tie. It might well have been the occasion when they resumed their relationship. I'm almost certain it was taken before they were married in 1942.

He loved the music of Victor Silvester, featured in the video below. When he visited the Philippines in 1981, eleven years after my mother's death, the people in Tangub City, Misamis Occidental, Mindanao, put on a welcome party. He hadn't lost his ability to 'trip the light fantastic' and enjoyed himself immensely.

My mother used to say if we found ourselves in a crowded space such as a bus or a lift (elevator), 'If we've as much room in heaven we'll be all right'. May the light of heaven shine on my parents and on my grandmother Annie Dowd Collins for suggesting to her daughter Mary that she invite her former boyfriend Joe to that dress dance!


  1. Thank you for sharing this family story. I enjoy little anecdotes like this!

  2. In an email after reading this post my brother reminded me of something my father used to say to my mother after the Sunday roast: 'You wouldn't get it in the Gresham, Mary'. The Gresham Hotel in O'Connell Street, right in the heart of Dublin, epitomised luxury for most Dubliners at the time. In recent years during visits home I've had lunch with some classmates from my schooldays in Toddy's Bar and Brasserie, part of the Gresham, and can recommend it highly for its very friendly staff, good food and reasonable prices.

  3. Thank you for shareing your family with us Father, your parents must be very proud of their son!

  4. Father Sean: thank you fot sharing this post and the evocative music! My late Mum would have been 91 this coming Good Friday. My Dad would have been 93 this year in July. Your abiding affection for your parents shines out from your post - I've no doubt that they and your grandparents are incerdibly proud of you!
    'If we've as much room in heaven we'll be all right' - how cute! My Mum used to say I was my father's daughter but her baby. And I still am, even now! Thanks and God bless, Gigi.


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