FESTIVE Christmas trees are lighting up towns and villages across the county but few could have a better background story than the one in Castleconnell.
Well over 100 gathered on Saturday night for the second annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony organised by Castleconnell Tidy Towns committee. The two choirs from St Joseph’s Church led the carol singing and there was mince pieces, Christmas pudding and mulled wine to add to the atmosphere.
The sycamore tree, located beside the community hall on the Main Street of the village, is named after Paddy “Pop” McCabe.
Chairman of Castleconnell Tidy Towns committee, Sean Hartigan said Paddy emigrated to New York before returning to Castleconnell in the 1950s.
“He was from the top of the Bog road. He went off to America and became very well known in New York. He set up a school of Irish dancing and he was a great fan of boxing,” said Sean.
In the week that is in it he would have been very proud of Castleconnell’s own Andy Lee.
He was affectionately called Pop by the children under his tutelage and the name followed him across the water when he returned home.
“In 1952 they started to build a hall by voluntary labour. He lived right across from the hall. There was a galvanised shed known as the red shed that had to be taken down. There was a sycamore tree at the side of the shed. When the shed was knocked the question was asked should the sycamore tree be cut down. Pop McCabe said it shouldn’t be as it was one of few trees in the village.
“Fr Fogarty was the parish priest and said Pop could have the tree if he would look after it. ‘Leave that to me’ said Pop,” recounted Sean.
The tree has thrived ever since and became known as Pop McCabe’s tree. When the Tidy Town committee decided to light up a tree there was only one option. Over 2,000 lights were placed on it last year with around 700 more added in 2014. Fittingly it was Pop’s daughter-in-law Caroline McCabe who flicked the switch after Mass on Saturday night.
The committee are selling cards with a picture of the tree and the caption Greetings from Castleconnell. It is being sent far and wide. The idea is that you are buying a light on the tree for the price of the card and celebrating the great Pop McCabe.