THE ‘Echo Boy’ who told Jack Lynch of the death of his Cork team-mate and friend Christy Ring has been laid to rest.
John Kelleher, from Glasheen, died at the age of 89, having sold the newspaper for 76 years.
He had been a newspaper vendor since he began selling The Evening Echo with his mother when he was just eight years old. He continued working until he was 84.
The legendary Echo Boy was well known at his pitch at the Coliseum Corner on MacCurtain Street. It was there that he broke the news to the then-Taoiseach Jack Lynch in 1979 that Christy Ring had died.
John’s daughter Olivia said: “Dad used to take great umbrage at the suggestion that he told Jack Lynch ‘Ringy was dead’. He would never be so disrespectful as to call Christy Ring ‘Ringy’.”
In later years, he became well known in homes and shops on both sides of the city as he delivered the newspapers to the doors.
She recalled: “He used to go out in all sorts of weather to work. If it was a tsunami, my father would still go out in it. The paper was like a religion to him. He was buried with the Examiner and The Echo.”
In a 1977 documentary on the Echo Boys by RTÉ, John talked about setting up the Newsvendors Association to ensure that young newspaper sellers had better working conditions than when he was a young seller himself.
In that interview, he said he became an Echo Boy because his mother had been selling the paper since 1918. He said: “She continued selling them until she died in 1970.”
In another interview on the Cork Folklore Twitter account, he recalled sellingThe Echoon the day that Christy Ring got married. He said there was a huge demand for the newspaper that day because Ring was such a star.
Olivia said: “Not working from aged 84 to 89 was a big hardship to him. He loved meeting people and having chats. He said that he met people from all walks of life and learned to treat everyone the same. And that his education was not in college, but on the street. He was ridiculously fit and had an amazing depth of knowledge about Cork. He was like Google Maps.”