Brother Gerald Macken

Tributes to former Castlebar De La Salle Brother on his passing

THE passing of De La Salle Brother Gerald Macken, a former teacher at St. Patrick’s National School, has evoked a wide sense of loss in the community.

Gerald was 89 and came from Barrack Street, Ballaghaderreen, and lived a full life as a De La Salle Brother.

Gerald began his long teaching career in Castlebar where he spent six happy years from 1954 to 1960.

He was the last living member of the Macken family of five born to Joe and Lily (née Casey) Macken.

Two of the family joined the De La Salle Brothers - James and Michael (Brother Gerald), Fr. Joe, who spent his life working as a priest in the Agen Diocese, in France, died in December 2020, Sr. Winnie was a Sister of Charity and John, who lived his life in Ballaghaderreen, was a very active member of the Saint Vincent de Paul Society in the town.

In the eulogy by Brother Kevin McEvoy, FSC, Michael came to the Juniorate in Castletown, Portlaoise, Co. Laois in September 1946 and Brother Malachy Buckley picks up the story: "After a few days when everybody had settled in we had a sing-song and Michael volunteered with the song that was to become his party-piece throughout his life: ‘The West’s Awake’.

“He was introduced as a past pupils of the Brothers’ School in Ballaghaderreen; I expected to find a fine footballer or hurler - to my disappointment, he was neither; his skills lay elsewhere."

Ger worked his way through Castletown, Faithlegg and Waterford Training College after which he was posted to the primary school in Castlebar where he spent six happy years - the downside of those years were the tragic death of Brother Prudentius Leo while he was out cycling and the burning down of the primary school.

His six years in Castlebar were followed by a further six years on the island of Mauritius - three years in Rose Hill and three years in Curepipe - but, unlike his brother James who was to spend almost fifty years in the Far East, Ger was a homebird and returned to Ireland and Ballyfermot where he was to spend his next five years, during which time he attended evening lectures in UCD in preparation for his BA Degree.

Brother Raymond says of him: "While in Ballyfermot, Gerald taught deaf children and he was inventive and creative in getting aids to help these children.

"He was a marvellous community man and he got on well with confreres and lay staff alike. He was always gentle and humble. He was a good colleague.

"He was continually praising and looking up to others. He was very sociable and looked forward to feast days. His party piece then was ‘On the Road to Mandalay’.

"Ger’s transfer to Loughrea in 1977 coincided with the arrival in the community of three young energetic Brothers - Larry Cahill, Tim Cadogan and myself - who would make the twenty-three mile trip for lectures to Galway until 1980.”

Tim Cadogan wrote: "Ger was a decent person. I remember he replaced Vincent Byrne in Loughrea in 1977. This was not an easy act to follow as Vincent was very popular and well established in Loughrea."

He spent a further 20 years in Kilmacud, Co. Dublin, before returning to Castletown in his later years.

Ger’s community and home have been in Castletown and particularly Miguel House since 2016.

Brother Stephen conducted a short survey among the staff on the qualities that came to mind when they thought of Ger and, in a way, it’s a fine summary of what has been said up to now.

Here are the responses: "Humble, welcoming, patient, a peacemaker, a great Brother for community sing-songs, a Brother who shunned the limelight, a quiet, humble and gently Brother who was a loyal companion and friend and whose deep spirituality enabled him to deal with challenging issues with great faith and equanimity."

And, on a personal note, Stephen continued: "One other thing I recall about him was his great love for his native town Ballaghadereen. If I stopped off on my way to Castlebar or if I was attending a funeral in Ballaghadereen, I would be taken on a tour of the town, ending in his favourite restaurant for coffee and scones.

"We thank God for the wonderful work and service given so unselfishly by Br. Gerald during his lifetime.

"He touched the lives of many people in all the schools and places he worked. We have lost a great Brother and friend. He was a man who was close to God and Mary.

"We thank once again Teresa, Br Martin, all the staff in Miguel House and Doctors Paddy and Robbie for their love and care of Ger since his arrival here. We know that he is now with the Lord and enjoying the happiness of eternal life."