OUR PLACE, OUR PEOPLE
Once upon a time, Tom (‘T’) Hill and his late brother, Frank, got a new pet dog. They called the dog ‘Timmy’ after their favourite barman, the great Timmy Corcoran (now also deceased). Timmy was the genial head barman in The Central.
Timmy the dog brought the brothers closer together, but the new living arrangements were not without pitfalls. There was the time that Timmy the dog inadvertently got drunk (he helped himself to some whiskey which had been left to one side in a glass). Tom recalled: “The dog was disorientated and staggering”.
That (very) tipsy episode aside, Timmy was generally a well behaved and lovable dog, a welcome addition to life at No. 1, Circular Road.
It’s no surprise – yet still so heartwarming – to witness the Roscommon community’s response to the fire which set Tom Hill’s house ablaze last month.
Led by neighbours and other like-minded locals, a campaign is now well underway, the aim being to try and get Tom back into his house for Christmas. The fire happened on the 25th of October, and while the house was badly damaged, one of the town’s great characters – thank God – escaped unharmed.
The people of Roscommon Town – and thankfully this same spirit is evident in communities countywide – are never found wanting at times like this.
The first reaction to the fire was one of immense relief and gratitude that Tom Hill was well and safe. The second reaction was: let’s roll up our sleeves and ‘put this house back together again’.
Just like its instantly recognisable occupant, it’s no ordinary house. It’s a bit of a landmark in the town, standing, as I observed in my book ‘Nothing About Sheep Stealing’, on both Henry Street and Circular Road.
I’ve been in T. Hill’s house many times. You can rebuild wilted structures and clean up smoke-soiled walls, but a sad aspect of the events of October 25th is that Tom lost some valued momentos. On the walls of his kitchen were memoriam cards, newspaper cuttings, photographs. I know that Tom felt the company of absent friends (and family) through these now-lost momentos. You only had to point at one of them to prompt a detailed, affectionate story from the man himself.
Tom Hill (as he acknowledges in an interview in this edition) is now the recipient of a community’s love and generosity. It could never be any other way. Tom is more than ‘a character’ – he’s a good, salt of the earth Roscommon man who is rightly valued in our community.
It’s a joy to meet him. A painter by trade, he’s a bit of a philosopher too. He has some priceless stories about the old days, about the people he has met and known. More than that, I like his view of life…his optimism, his loyalty to the town, to people, to our traditions, to times past. Tom is loyal. Friends mean everything to him. That’s why the loss of these momentos is significant, sad. But, knowing Tom, he will bounce back.
During the summer, I asked Tom how he was managing with the lockdown(s). He was fine. “Every night, I listen to either Joe Dolan or Pavarotti” he said, “then I’m happy”.
It’s no surprise to see the people of Roscommon rallying to him now. He is one of ours, he has given the town a lot, and the town will give back. His people will get him back into his house, back with Joe Dolan and Pavarotti, back amongst his neighbours and friends. Tom ‘T’ Hill will be back home again, ready to make new memories for years to come.