ANTIQUE dealers, auctioneers and members of the legal profession joined with members of the Traveller community in Rathkeale this Thursday when one of the best-known antique dealers in the country, Simon Quilligan, was laid to rest.
Mr Quilligan, who lived just yards from St Mary’s Church in Thomas Street where the funeral Mass was celebrated, died on Sunday. He had been unwell for some time.
Hundreds of people attended Thompson’s Funeral Home in Limerick on Wednesday evening where Mr Quilligan lay in repose and the parish church in Rathkeale was packed for the funeral Mass.
An antiques reference book from the 1960s and a black and white wedding photograph were the symbolic gifts brought to the altar. But elaborate flower arrangements also spoke eloquently of Mr Quilligan’s other interests and included a billiards table.
The chief celebrant Fr Willie Russell said Mr Quilligan would be mourned and remembered as a husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle and friend.
And he described Mr Quilligan as one of Rathkeale’s great characters, a man who worked hard and cared for his family and a man with an encyclopedic knowledge of antiques who was known the length and breadth of the country and further afield.
Those who knew him recalled a witty man, a man who was the life and soul of every party, a man who could entertain by composing verses and a gentleman.
“I had the best grand-dad in the world,” one of his grandsons said as part of the bidding prayers while a song sung by one of his grand-daughters contained the hope he was now “singing with the angels’ choir”.
Mr Quilligan, who was known as Sammy Buckshot, passed away, aged 77, from a cancer-related illness. A member of the Travelling community, the Rathkeale man became one of the best known and most highly respected antiques dealers in the country with his shop in Adare attracting buyers from all over the world.
Fellow Adare antique shop owner George Stacpoole, who opened his own premises around the same time as Mr Quilligan opened his, described him as “an extraordinary man”.
“He was a very close friend and we are all devastated,” said Mr Stacpoole, who is president of the Irish Antique Dealers Association.
“He had a shop across the street from me and every day we would sit for half an hour and swap stories,” he added.
Estimates of Mr Quilligan’s wealth vary but it is generally accepted that he was a multi-millionaire who made his fortune through his dealings in antiques and property.
Despite his humble background and lack of formal education, he became one of the country’s most highly respected antiques experts.
He would travel throughout Ireland and all over the globe seeking out valuable antique furniture and other items. In later years, he took advantage of online technology to trade with people all over the world.
“He had a wide knowledge – he would buy anything and he had a great wide knowledge of things. He would take a gamble and more often than not, they would pay off,” recalled Mr Stacpoole of his friend who, he said, had an “amazing memory”.
“He was extraordinary. Everyone knew him, even in the more obscure places. He was an amazing buyer - he bought everywhere, from sales all around the world.”
“The thing I really liked about him was that he was very proud of his past and we used to have long conversations about it,” Mr Stacpoole added.
Mr Quilligan was buried in the adjoining cemetery beside St Mary’s. He is mourned by his wife Ellen, his children Philomena, Mary, Michael and Lizzy, by his brothers and sisters, grandchildren and great-grandchild and by his large, extended family and many friends.
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