“The local community has lost a big presence,” said the manager of Skibbereen Tourist Office, Cian O’Mahony following the death of Declan Newman yesterday in Lough Hyne.
The popular Cork city man, who was in his late 50s, died while out swimming with fellow members of the Lough Hyne Lappers club on Sunday morning.
The Irish Community Air Ambulance and gardaí attended the scene, and the father of two was pronounced dead.
Declan set up the Lough Hyne Lappers swimming club around 15 years ago, as a social club for people interested in swimming. The club continues to thrive and currently boasts around 150 members.
The passionate Leeds United fan was also actively involved with his local soccer club and his death has prompted a huge outpouring of sadness in the locality.
“The town is devastated,” said Mr O’Mahony.
“There is a lot of sadness and shock in the locality. He was a larger-than-life character. You would hear him before you would see him. He was always smiling. I don’t think I ever saw him in bad form.”
Cian said the late Declan, who ran his own signwriting business, moved to Skibbereen from Cork city well over 30 years ago and immersed himself in the local area.
"He just fitted in. He ran a successful signwriting business. He was involved with the local soccer club, and he was huge in the Lough Hyne Lappers. Soccer was his first love. He was a big Leeds United fan.
“He was so helpful and good-natured. For any community event, we ran in the town he would always be willing to help out. He would never say no to you. He was a very likable character. He was jovial and gregarious. The local community has a lot a big presence,” he added.
Cian added the late father of two ‘worshipped’ the ground his two children Cillian and Laoise walked on.
He said the many signs around the various towns and villages in West Cork that bear his name will ensure his legacy will live on.
“He worshipped the ground his two kids walked on. He was so proud of them. He was always talking about them. His legacy will live on. His signs are everywhere.”
Chairperson of Skibbereen AFC John Allan said Declan served in numerous roles with his local soccer club.
“He was very involved with the local soccer club. He served in a lot of roles in the club. He was chairman and coach. He collected lotto tickets, and he painted and cut the grass. If we needed to get a job done, he was always on hand.
Independent councillor Karen Coakley said Declan was an absolute gentleman.
“There are simply no words only shock and devastation. Declan was a character, an absolute gentleman, always laughing and singing. He brightened everyone’s day. The loss and pain his family and friends are experiencing are impossible to comprehend.”
Fianna Fáil councillor Joe Carroll said there is a lot of sadness in the locality following the news.
“He was very well known and very popular. He participated in a number of local clubs. There was a lot of shock and sadness when the news about Declan broke on Sunday. It is a sad story and very tragic.”