A wave of sadness and nostalgia engulfed the Kilmeena G.A.A. Club and the parish with the announcement of the death, in Chicago, of Mr. Joe Higgins, who was originally from Cushalogurt, Kilmeena. Joe was the oldest of three boys and was predeceased by his brothers Eamon and Paddy who died on 19th May 2019. Joe’s passing ends the final chapter in the life of the Higgins’ family in Cushalogurt and many memories of gold were evoked for those who can recall Joe’s years of friendship and camaraderie.
Joe emigrated to Chicago in 1955 and the U.S.A. became his home. He worked in construction, in Alaska, for a number of years before settling in San Francisco. However, he returned annually to visit family and friends and his love for his native shores never diminished. Joe had a quiet, unassuming personality which was enhanced with unwavering qualities of sincerity, loyalty, generosity and kindness. He was reared by Patrick and Bridget Lynn, Cushalogurt, and a tangible bond of affection was created which remained a cherished memory for all three persons throughout their lifetime.
Joe played a pivotal role in the revival of Kilmeena G.A.A. Club following the aftermath of World War Two. The inaugural General Meeting was held on Sunday 11th April 1951 and Joe was elected Chairman. Joe’s leadership was inspirational and with a dedicated, determined committee and panel of players, the bedrock for today’s successful football Club was established. He also served as Vice Chairman in 1952, 1954 and 1955. On the football pitch he was a solid and uncompromising centre half back and his dogged persistence doused the scoring aspirations of the opposition on numerous occasions. The “Mayo News” recorded Joe’s departure to Chicago in 1955 with a very descriptive sentence of his football prowess: “He was the rock on which many an opposition’s attack floundered”.
Despite emigrating to Chicago Joe never relinquished his affinity with Kilmeena G.A.A. Club. The magnitude of his loyalty to the Club was aptly displayed with the donation of his field adjacent to the football pitch in 1997. His only stipulation was that the field would be utilised to train under-age teams and that it would be dedicated to the memory of Patrick Lynn. Joe certainly possessed a noble heart full of dreams that would enhance and expand his beloved football Club. He sought no reward but had the priceless satisfaction of providing a space which would encourage Gaelic football and secure the future of Kilmeena G.A.A. Club.
It is truly befitting that the memory of Joe Higgins will be honoured with the presentation of the Kilmeena G.A.A. flag to his family members in Chicago before he is laid to rest. This unassuming man who bequeathed the Club his blueprint of generosity, loyalty, dedication and friendship.
Joe, may you have a pleasant crossing and a safe landing to your new-found land beyond all distant stars and may it be filled with all the happiness, love and joy that you so freely imparted to all who had the privilege of knowing you in Kilmeena.
Many thanks to Claire Ryan for compiling this piece with assistance from Paddy O Grady and John Moran. Thanks also to Bernie O Donnell (Carrowbeg) now living in Sydney for supplying photographs.
Paddy, Eamon and Joe Higgins.
Declan & Dylan Duffy, Joe & Paddy Higgins with Katelin Higgins (granddaughter of Paddy in front).
Hugh & Anne O Donnell with Paddy and Joe Higgins.
Joe Higgins photoed playing a match in Newport in 1955.