Cork town mourns for Ted, a draper for 75 years

Businessman, family man, friend ... AILÍN QUINLAN reveals how the death of Ted Cronin at 91 left his home town of Macroom at a loss
Cork town mourns for Ted, a draper for 75 years

PILLAR OF THE COMMUNITY: Ted Cronin in his draper’s shop in Macroom, where he worked all his life. “You’d always feel happy coming out of his shop,” said retired local GP, Dr Con Kelleher

HIS passing was marked by an avalanche of the most glowing accolades, but the simplest, and most memorable, came from an old acquaintance of the late, extraordinary Ted Cronin

“He was someone you’d aspire to be yourself,” Macroom funeral director Martin Fitzgerald observed of Ted, one of the town’s best-known businessmen.

The father-of-three adults, well-known sportsman, local historian and talented raconteur passed away at the age of 91 on April 30, after running the landmark MJ Cronin’s drapery store on Middle Square in Macroom for an incredible 75 years.

“Ted got things right in his life; with his business, with his family and personal life; he was a good man in every aspect of life,” recalled Fitzgerald.

“He had a great balance to his life that a lot of us don’t achieve. Ted got it right,” added Fitzgerald, who recounted how the late businessman carried out much charity work in the town, very quietly and over more than seven decades.

“Ted was there to help people. He was a very charitable man who did a lot of things for people that nobody knew about.

“He did things for people in a nice, quiet way. He’d see people for whom things weren’t going so well, and he’d have a word with them and look after them financially.

“In small towns, people have frightful pride and they could be going through terrible things and not ever talk about them; it’s about keeping a stiff upper lip.

“Ted was a great man to look after these people,” he says.

Ted Cronin in his younger days, with Dick O’Farrell, displaying their fine catch of a 20lb pike.
Ted Cronin in his younger days, with Dick O’Farrell, displaying their fine catch of a 20lb pike.

Another lifetime acquaintance of Ted’s, chemist, Matt Murphy, 71, whose family pharmacy is across the road from the drapery shop, gave a similarly simple but stunning insight into the essence of the man:

“Ted lived the way people should live,” he commented.

Ted Cronin’s kindness and compassion, his amiable disposition, his warm sense of humour and his endless treasure trove of stories and anecdotes about his native town, were just some of the reasons why the streets of Macroom, from Chapel Cross through to Ted’s Middle Square, were lined by business owners, residents and members of the local gun, golf and fishing clubs — all of whom turned out to pay their respects as the funeral cortege left the church. Murphy was one of them.

“I stood outside the door as his coffin passed by,” he says.

“There was a large number of people in the main street, and there was unplanned clapping as his funeral cortege passed.

“People simply wanted to demonstrate their appreciation of Ted as his funeral went through the castle grounds and the golf club.

“People stood and paid their respects. They kept to the social distancing rules but they made sure to be there to express their appreciation of him.”

Given the times — the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown — people were unable to pay their respects in the traditional way, but they still managed to do it; with some physically standing to attention as the cortege wound its way through the streets, while others expressed their affection and fondness for the nonagenarian on the social media site RIP.ie:

“A true gentleman, one of the last ones left,” wrote one.

“We have so many memories of Ted over the years and we always left his shop smiling,” commented another contributor.

He was a lovely man and Macroom town will be at a loss without him,” said a third, while another mourner described him as “a kind and jovial, wonderful, genial and generous Macrompian who contributed so much to so many.”

His passing, wrote another person, meant the “end of an era” for the town.

That’s because, as yet another Macroom resident recalls, the late Ted Cronin “was the definition of a pure gentleman; he gave people clothes to try on at home and dressed people when they hadn’t the money, treating everyone with incredible manners and respect.”

Ted worked in the family shop, which first opened its doors in 1922, for a remarkable 75 years, and was to be seen behind the counter until shortly before his death.

He wasn’t quite 17 when he began working in the shop in 1945, after returning from several years as a boarder at St Colman’s College in Fermoy.

However, two years later, in 1947, Ted took over full responsibility for the running of the busy drapers’ shop at the age of just 19, following the death of his mother Margaret. His father, Michael, who founded the shop, had died in 1942.

In later years, in an interview with local historian and retired GP Dr Con Kelleher, Ted attributed the survival and success of the family business to hard work, good service, excellent staff and his genuine enjoyment in meeting people.

His excellent memory for names and faces, his calm disposition, and his love of good company, commented Kelleher, also stood him in good stead.

Ted Cronin in the front row, fourth from the left, at the Macroom Golf Club Captain’s Prize Day in 1958 — his wife Joan is first from the left (Dennis Dinneen, Macroom)
Ted Cronin in the front row, fourth from the left, at the Macroom Golf Club Captain’s Prize Day in 1958 — his wife Joan is first from the left (Dennis Dinneen, Macroom)

The genial father of three — a top-class hurler and footballer in his younger years — enjoyed shooting and fishing and, along with his wife Joan, was an enthusiastic golfer.

Ted was a regular sight sauntering along the pavements of the town towards the historic Castle every morning before work, usually accompanied by his beloved gun-dogs.

He always, recalls Martin Fitzgerald, had a kind word for whoever he met, something which was much appreciated by Fitzgerald himself as a teenager, after he abruptly found himself in charge of a very busy family business on the death of his father:

“I took over the family funeral parlour in 1963 at the age of 19 after my father passed away,” he says. “I was the only son.

“Ted was very helpful to me; I’d say that he was a very steadying effect.

“He’d always have time to have a word with you.

“He was a very kind man — if he could help anyone in any way, he would.”

Local chemist Matt Murphy knew Ted all his life.

“His family lived in the square and so did ours, and I grew up in the square. I was younger than Ted, so I knew him as a child, and later on, as someone to buy stuff from.

“The main thing I remember is Ted’s fantastic personality and the friendly greeting he’d give you. He could remember everyone’s name and I noticed as he got older, how physically fit he was.

“Even in his nineties, he was fit and agile, from all the walking and shooting he did, and he worked in his shop until shortly before he died. He had an amazing brain. He knew everyone. He was a great golfer too!

“Ted might have only six or seven clubs in his bag but he’d play better than the fellas with the full quota of 13 or 14 clubs.

“Ted did everything so well, so capably and so quietly. He was an example to people, he was an example of a person who went about their business in the proper way.”

Retired GP Dr Kelleher, 66, who worked as a family doctor in the town for 34 years until 2014, has a strong interest in local history and interviewed Ted about his family history some years ago.

He also knew the businessman all his life —the Cronin and Kelleher families grew up within 200 yards of each other, he recalls.

“After I retired, I interviewed a lot of local people, including Ted, about their family history,” he recalls, adding that because of his legendary modesty, Ted did not allow publication of the subsequent article about him at the time:

“This was another one of Ted’s many virtues which made him so well liked and respected.

“Everyone was mad about Ted. He was a lovely man. You’d always feel happy coming out of his shop — he made you feel he liked you. He had a benign interest in people and a very genial disposition.

“He was a very kindly man with a great sense of humour who always saw the fun in things and was a great raconteur,”

“He was a very intelligent man who grew up pre-TV, and over the years he assimilated much knowledge about the town and the people and what was happening.

“Ted had a great grasp of local history and the human element of it,” he says, adding that the businessman’s loyalty to the town of his birth was a fundamental part of his life.

“Macroom was his Mecca!”

Ar dheis Dé ar a anam dilís.

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