By Pat Delaney
LAST Friday morning the people of The Heath and surrounding areas bade a sad farewell to Willie (Murt) Treacy who lived all his life just over half a mile away from The Heath GAA grounds and a few furlongs more from The Heath Golf Club. Down the road from both of these landmarks is the Church of the Assumption and Murt frequented all three in his 70 plus years.
A week earlier Murt was engaged in his favourite exercise of cutting timber that would be used to service the burner that heated the house but he took ill and passed away.
Murt was a member of a great Heath family and he spent many years as a teacher in the old Portlaoise Vocational School located on Railway Street in Portlaoise.
The CBS across the road was where he received his secondary education but when he qualified to teach he chose the Technical School. It was here he began a great sporting career helping St Mary’s to a provincial double in 1963, captained by two cousins that would claim many honours, Brian Delaney in hurling and Mark Carroll in football. In football they defeated Coláiste Mhuire of Dublin and in hurling Murt won his only medal when the famous St Peter’s of Wexford were beaten.
In his teenage years Murt and other members of the Treacy family played football with Emo and helped them win a famous minor championship in 1964 beating Portlaoise in the semi-final, then Graiguecullen in the final. Two under-21 medals were garnered in ‘66 and ‘67 alongside his brother Pat.
The Heath reached the senior semi-final 50 years ago but lost to Portlaoise. Twelve months later the sides met in the final when Portlaoise prevailed again. Eventually Murt was rewarded when The Heath beat Emo in the senior final after a replay in 1974 captained by his near neighbour Jack Hyland. Murt missed the drawn game because of injury but he recovered in time take his place in the replay.
Despite his best efforts his only other success was when The Heath won the All County League title in 1976 but then there was golf. Murt went on to enjoy years of success with the small white ball on The Heath and in Killenard.
Twenty years ago his neighbour and friend Tommie Keane created a magnificent course over in Killenard and he invited Murt to participate. This proved to be a game changer. For many years Murt and his wife Kathleen became deeply involved in the Heritage Golf club. Among those present in the early days was Spaniard Seve Ballesteros and then there was the famous Seve Pro Am played in the new state of the art facilities.
Right up to this year Murt enjoyed playing in the Heritage but missed the sport when the Covid restrictions ensured no clubs were allowed to open their facilities to the public.
When word spread of Murt’s sudden passing there was great sadness throughout the length and breadth of the golfing fraternity and throughout the surrounding area where the family would be well known and respected.
Last Friday Murt’s funeral cortege departed from the family home and travelled to the Church of the Assumption passing first the famous landmark of Treacy’s restaurant and bar managed by his brother Tom, then at the crossroads The Heath GAA grounds and further along the journey The Heath Golf club.
At the church the Monsignor John Byrne PP received Murt’s remains and then introduced Fr Eugene Clarkson, a cousin of the Treacy family, who would celebrate the Requiem Mass, from the Emo parish was Fr Joe O’Neill and other Portlaoise clergy joined in prayer.
Due to Covid restrictions only a small attendance was permitted to attend but outside a large crowd of mourners congregated. They had earlier lined the route to the Church and the GAA and golf clubs had formed a guard of honour.
The celebrant spoke of a great family man we had come to pay respect to and sympathise with his family who were heartbroken at their great loss.
Monsignor Byrne in his opening tribute extended deepest sympathy to the family and wished a speedy recovery to Kathleen who due to illness could not be present for Mass.
Among the gifts carried to the altar were a family photograph, then one of his many gGolf clubs but he had one favourite but perhaps the most poignant was when his grandchild carried a tree sapling in a pot to signify Murt’s love of wood. It was right up there with his love of golf and ironically it was while working with trees that he passed away. After the ceremony Murt was interred in the adjoining cemetery.
Predeceased by his brother Séan and sister Nuala, Murt is mourned by his wife Kathleen, children Fionán, Sinéad, Billy and Karen, grandchildren Holly, Hazel, Clodagh, Aoibhinn, Isabelle and Oliver, son-in-law Colin, Karen’s partner James, daughters-in-law Caroline and Hilary, sister Anne, brothers Pat and Tom, brothers-in-law, nieces and nephews, and a wide circle of friends.