A real air of sadness in the Valley

Fireside chat: Eileen and Michael Tangney relax in the Black Valley Hostel, or The Hall as its known to the locals.
Picture: Valerie O’Sullivan

DESPITE the sparkling July sunshine, a heavy cloud of sadness hovered over the beautiful Black Valley this Thursday as the close-knit community gathered to bid a fond and emotional farewell to a much-loved parishioner.

Requiem Mass for popular Eileen Tangney was celebrated in St Mary’s Church, Beaufort, at 11 o’clock this morning with burial afterwards in Churchtown Cemetery.

Heartbroken family, neighbours, friends and the many people that knew and admired Eileen gathered to pray for her and to console her family who are coming to terms with her sad passing.

Eileen, her husband Michael, and their children owned and operated the landmark Black Valley Hostel which has been a central hub of everyday life in the Black Valley since 1964.

Knock locally as “The Hall’ and nestled beautifully in the heart of the famous valley, one of the remotest locations imaginable, it has always been a hive of activity and there has been a welcome on the mat and a kettle on the boil for generations of visitors from all parts of the world.

Photographer Valerie O’Sullivan, who captured the life and times of Eileen and Michael so wonderfully for her book on the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks, its people and places, noted that Eileen was originally from Beaufort but she moved to the valley in 1961.

She often reflected that, at that time, there was no electricity so washing and providing for six children was no easy undertaking.

The late Eileen Tangney (centre) with her husband Michael and daughter, Siobhan, pictured at the Black Valley Youth Hostel by Valerie O’Sullivan

When electricity finally arrived in 1977 – the Black Valley becoming the last place in Ireland to receive power –  the first thing the Tangneys purchased was a washing machine.

Eileen told Valerie: “Electricity was a great asset to the valley. It was 1985 before we got the ‘phone and before that, we’d have to go five or six miles to the nearest telephone.

“If somebody got sick suddenly, you would have to travel over the Gap of Dunloe to Kate Kearney’s Cottage to send for an ambulance or a priest”.

Michael, a retired Gap of Dunloe ponyman, and Eileen always told of their fond memories of “going on the Biddy” on February 1 with their dear friends Sheila and Sonny O’Sullivan.

“We’d all dress up with white shirts and pants, straw hats and wear masks. Many’s the time we went to Kenmare on the Biddy – we used to have great fun, dancing in every house and then we’d have a Biddy ball and dance ‘till morning,” she recalled in Valerie’s book.

“You would never be lonesome in the valley,” she declared.

Eileen and Michael’s daughter, Susan, now runs the iconic Hostel, a favourite refuge for visitors embarking on the Kerry Way 200km trek.

And, as it was with Eileen at the helm, the Tangney house is always open and the kettle is always on the boil.

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