The Life and Times of the late Frank Hennessy

June 17th, 2011
by Tommy Conroy

The late Frank Hennessy was an outstanding and a beautiful person.  He lived his entire life full of everything so meaningful and brought joy to so many people over the decades. He was never in bad form, always chatting, laughing and telling jokes to fellow citizens on the streets of Tralee as he went about having his daily little flutter in the local bookmakers.  People who met Frank in out-of-sorts mood went away a much happier person, as Frank was a man to brighten up the darkest of days.  Frank, who was 73, lived everyday doing what he was best at, making people happy. 

He was one of eight children to Jack and Mary Hennessy (nee Nolan, Fenit).  He was born on the 25th March 1938 in Church Street, Tralee.  When he was six months old, the family moved to Dawson's Land (upper Rock Street) now Connolly Park.  The other family members were the late Sean (star athlete), who died on 26th January this year.  Jerome, Liam and P.J., his sisters, Mary Hobbert, Eilee O'Shea all reside in Tralee. 

Frank Hennessy left primary school at 12 years of age and started his working life as a messenger boy.  Two years later, he was employed by the C.W.S. bacon factory at 14 years old.  He progressed into a master pork butcher and was a most popular and loyal colleague until the firm ceased production in 1971.  Frank always loved a challenge and became a member of Tralee fire brigade in the 1970's.

Frank, in his youthful years growing up in Tralee in the late 1950's, was instrumental in forming Tralee's first skiffle group (Lonnie Donegan style).  My old man is a dustman.  The group called "The Satellites" was appropriate as the U.S. were sending the first man to the moon.

Among the group members of the Satellites were his Rock Street pals, Tommy (Tucker) Fitzpatrick, Sonny (Cosher) Lynch, Paul Reidy, Waddy and Michael McEvoy, Tony McCluskey.  The group, with Frank on lead guitar, took Tralee and county by storm.  They competed in Crock of Gold concerts in Tralee C.Y.M.S. and such was their popularity, they were assigned as relief band to all the big show bands each Sunday night by Fr. Michael Murphy, C.Y.M.S. spiritual director, a brother of Bishop Bill, present Bishop of Kerry. 

The band kept the young and not so young's feet tapping when Tralee was then a drab town. On Sunday night in those years, the pubs closed at 10 O'Clock, so the main band were provided with at case of beer by C.Y.M.S.  However, the Satellites drand the beer backstage and the regal band from Cork were left thirsty.  That was the end for this talented group.

Frank's love of soccer 'the beautiful game' was phenomenal.  He followed all the world stars and travelled widely to see his heroes.  It came as little surprise when he played as an 18 year old with Tralee United in the fair field, Oakpark.  In those pre-ban years, soccer was not the most fashionable of sports to play.  Thankfully those days are long gone.  Frank later played with Abbeyfeale, but his dream came true when in 1961, Tralee formed a soccer team and Frank called that club "Dynamos".  50 years later 1961-2011, the Dynamos are a household word in Irish soccer circles.

During a long career as a skilled, no-nonsense player at the heart of Dynamos in the Desmond League, Munster Junior Cup and F.A.I. cup, he won every honour to be had in the game, the Murphy Cup in 1967, the much coveted inter-firm in 1969 and exhibition games with visiting outside teams.  Frank was a much admired club member right up to his sad passing.  His other sporting loves were horse-racing and dart playing.  He won a Kerry Dart Championship in 1966 with C.W.S. 

Frank Hennessy was a wonderful comedian of stage and theatre.  His stand-up comedy acts had his audience spellbound in hilarious laughter.  He appeared in Siamsa Tire on numerous occasions, variety shows, pantomimes, drama etc.  He performed in the Tops of the Town with Strand Road in the 1970's and since then, the amount of charity work he undertook was quite amazing, all night fasts on the streets of Tralee for various organisations. 

He shone in the Kerry Arts Festival with Samhlaich Ciarrai.  He appeared on R.T.E. TV with Gerry Ryan on secrets in 1991 doing his own impersonation of Joe Dolan and in the over 55's entertainer of the year.  His talents also blossomed in letter writing and won a national award for his work in An Post.  He was a regular on the comedy side of the Tralee Kingdom County Fair for many seasons.  Frank always looked on the bright side of life and in his own words said the reason why he did so much charity work was that nobody would pay to see him. 

Many people around will have precious memories of great times of Frank on stage and on the soccer fields of Munster and down at the low field. When he retired from playing, he met his great friend from Holy Cross church, Fr. Bertrand O'Farrell, who was club president and who said "Frank, I miss you from the playing fields but what I miss most is the language you used."

Frank brought out a book of jokes in 1997 and a CD for cancer a few years back. The Dynamos History in 2007, which gave him so much joy was produced and edited by Tommy Conroy and Frank.  Frank was the complete artist in all that he did.  He was someone very special, who all so sadly was never recognised for his work on a higher pedestal. 

He is now sharing a laugh and a joke with loved ones gone before him.  Frank Hennessy will be so sadly missed.  He was a man without peer.  His gentle ways and timely smile will live on in the hearts of so many.  We were a privileged lot to have shared his beautiful life.  Frank Hennessy, a person in a million. Thank you for the memories.

Frank R.I.P. 1938 – 2011

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