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Memories of Frank

By  Kieran Horkan

Frank Spain was a lifelong great friend over many decades. Indeed we went to the same small primary school in Dublin where he was called “Spainer”. Perhaps because the school (Naomh Treasa Naofa, Donore Ave.) was small there was a sense of pride in the pupils and the teachers were mostly excellent. We all felt part of it. Recently when Frank and I were sharing stories and memories on What’s App Frank sent me a beautiful Golden jubilee souvenir about the history of the school and it triggered more recollections from him which I had almost forgotten. Frank’s family moved to Walkinstown, the suburb I lived in and he went to a different secondary school to me at a place called Drimnagh Castle, run by the Christian Brothers, some of whom were harsh and cruel with an overuse of corporal punishment. Nevertheless they could never break his spirit nor his sense of humour. Frank and several local friends all went onto University College Dublin. We all managed to graduate despite a fair amount of partying and learning to drink pints of Guinness! One thing that struck me about Frank was that he was an avid reader and was a natural critic and storyteller. In particular, I remember him recalling passages out of Heller’s classic “Catch 22”, which was all the rage at the time. At UCD Frank got into his element on stage at UCD’s Dramsoc which turned out many stars including the famous Cusack sisters! Frank also honed his skills at poker when a few of us used to play every Saturday night with my parents in our house. This was a night of fun, banter, wit and lots of betting with poker faces all round and a fair bit of bluff too! The stakes were small but the games often ran into the wee small hours. Frank became a dab hand at the game and made some money at poker games he played while doing summer jobs in England to help pay our university fees. We parted ways around graduation time and went in different directions for work or further study. I went to Canada to do a Masters degree and when I returned I briefly caught up with Frank again and he introduced me to a lovely Spanish lady (MariCarmen), who of course, he married and had two fine sons. For too many years we didn’t cross paths but I was aware that he lived ‘somewhere in Spain’. Finally, just a few short years ago when we were in Spain as our daughter was working in Barcelona at the time, the four of us met up and had a memorable day reminiscing and chatting. From then on I was in almost daily contact with Frank through Whatsapp and he taught me how to make proper tortillas, shared his love of the almond trees and was distraught that the buds were hit by a late frost, films, books, Spanish culture and the conversation never faltered until suddenly the messages stopped and his son John, whom we had met in Australia, let us know about the terrible and sudden loss of a dear life-long friend. He was one of a kind and I miss him dearly.

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