The sudden death of Jim Carroll had a devastating effect on Kilkenny people.
Affectionately known as Sag, he spent a lifetime working within the hospitality industry. A gregarious, ebullient and effervescent personality ensured that Jim forever remained well liked. Yet along with the friendliness, the companionable nature, he was a man of steely determination and integrity.
All through the maelstrom of life’s false and wayward perspectives, Jim Carroll stayed solidly grounded. His calm persona and common – sense approach defused many difficult situations before they escalated. “Done and dusted,” he would remark, after restoring calm, as he sauntered away about his business.
A contemporary, I first met Jim during our teenage years, as we took part in youthful pursuits around a parochial Kilkenny City. Although we considered these pastimes to be the height of daring, hindsight shows they were innocent trivialities. But they delivered, to that generation of youth, many experiences of excitement and adventure, bonds that resulted in lifetime friendships.
Following those youthful interactions, we drifted apart. Work experiences and new colleagues demanded our attention. Jim’s working life began in Henderson’s Supermarket. He graduated, having done a demanding apprenticeship, to one of Kilkenny’s iconic hostelries, Andy’s Tavern.
Working in this environment proved this young man’s forte. He blossomed. Quick wit and a gift for repartee swiftly made him a popular and accomplished addition to the business.
As his skills increased, Jim assumed a more responsible role, with Andy and himself sharing the work load. This period was Jim’s finest professional achievement. He took Beer Festivals and busy shifts in an immensely capable stride.
Many listeners felt Jim’s famed stories concerning Beer Festival shenanigans were audacious accounts, designed to titivate and astonish. If this aim was the plan, the intention succeeded. Many recipients pleaded for more details. Jim obliged and embellished, with a cheeky grin, every tale.
Jim and I reconnected, after years apart, when he discovered I enjoyed consuming fermented liquor and I had discovered, fortuitously, Andy’s Tavern. The friendship rekindled in this environment and soon we began frequenting other such establishments and sampling their wares.
Hurling became another outlet. The latter end of the intercountry championship would turn us into enthusiastic supporters, relishing trips to Croke Park. On these occasions, Jim invariably drove and his innate ability provided safe passage. The journeys were joyous occasions. Jim shortened the road with anecdotes and a plethora of humorous stories. On such occasions, his libation and sustenance were a much cherished can of Coke and a bar of chocolate.
Marriage to Bid Mahony brought happiness, stability and contentment. Through some turbulent times, they overcame obstacle-strewn pathways and raised a family, James and Dean, of whom they were justifiably proud.
At this time, Jim changed career and supported his father’s daytime business by driving a school bus. Once more, an empathic nature became a trump and he dealt patiently with his young clients. Jim had a natural affinity with children. Even years later, they would vociferously hail him whenever their paths crossed. Emphasizing this affection, many of those schoolchildren, long since adult, attended the services of removal and internment for Jim.
Government restructuring of bus contracts began to impede. So, Jim resumed his previous trade, enjoying sojourns in Hotel Kilkenny, O’Gorman’s and Tynan’s. Retirement meant his expertise got utilized to help family members. He brought near unique talents to O’Hara’s in Thomastown, a place he loved, dearly, and The Corner House in Bennettsbridge.
Wherever Jim Carroll went, his professionalism rose to the fore. With ease and poise, he instantly immersed himself in the minutiae of various establishments. Throughout all his endeavours, Jim’s trustworthiness stood beyond reproach, as a shining testament. Dependability burnished his credentials, garnering universal respect and admiration. Aficionados placed Jim in the trade’s highest echelons. That he was given first refusal when senior positions became available was widely acknowledged.
Jim equally counted as a remarkably kind-hearted neighbour and friend. He did countless good deeds in private, expecting no recompense or reward. Throughout his life, he was a loyal companion, genuinely supportive yet full of roguish devilment. Time spent in the company of this renowned raconteur, was a delightful experience, and never disappointed. Afterwards, regaled and sated, you departed in the best of spirits.
A haunting silence has descended in the immediate aftermath of Jim’s passing. Our hearts are broken, our senses stilled, our world torn apart. Nothing makes sense. We are bereft and lonely. Grief is a constant companion. Yet we will recover. Tears will cease; laughter will return. The indomitable human spirit will triumph.
For the interim, we will remember Jim by recalling days of joy and happiness, days dominated by frivolous interactions and uncontrollable laughter. We will remember extraordinary kindness and decency, keeping his memory fresh and alive.
When the time is right, when we are strong enough, we will set his spirit free and let him go. Then we will be at peace. The grave will loosen its grip ― and death shall have no dominion.
Rest easy, Sag.