DAVY (Daithí) Lewsley was a giant of a man, well known throughout Ireland for his love of Irish culture, language, céilí dancing and Gaelic games.
At his wake it was said that “there are many good Irishmen and a few great Irishmen - Davy was a great Irishman”.
He is even immortalised in a poem, The Céilí Dancing King, which was recited at his funeral by the poet, Peter Carragher.
However, Davy was a man that never sought the spotlight and did so much for others throughout his life.
He will be remembered as a mild-mannered, cheerful and generous man who greeted everyone with a smile.
Born on the Shore Road in Lurgan, Davy was the eldest of nine children and a life-long member of Clann Éireann GAA club, who he played for in his youth.
He began his working life as a baker, following in his father Paddy’s footsteps, but was forced to give up his career due to health reasons and moved on to landscape gardening for a time, before becoming Clann Éireann Youth Club caretaker for more than 20 years.
In truth he was much more than a caretaker. He was a groundsman, kit man, fundraiser, bus driver, trip organiser, painter, decorator and much more – all for the club he loved and of which he was deeply proud.
During his time at Clann Éireann he made an enormous impact on the lives of young people in north Lurgan, with exchange trips he organised in Ireland and Germany providing many with the opportunity to travel for the first time.
For anyone who needed a helping hand, Davy was always there and fulfilled every task asked of him with his ever-present broad grin.
During his years in retirement, Davy starred in a number of shows produced by Clann Éireann Drama Society, playing Mr Bumbles in Oliver and the laundry man in Annie.
He was also a passionate Armagh supporter and rarely missed a game. He often described the Orchard County’s All-Ireland win in 2002 as the best day of his life - his first granddaughter, Aoifé, was also born as Kieran McGeeney lifted the Sam Maguire in Croke Park.
The first love of Davy’s life, however, was céilí dancing. He was well known for the lessons he delivered in dance halls in every corner of the country.
Most recently, he taught céilí dancing to pupils in Tanaghmore Primary School for the St Patrick’s Day celebrations in Lurgan.
In the Céilí Dancing King, by poet Peter Carragher, he is celebrated as “a man whose legs, I sometimes think, were fitted with a spring”.
“An open smile for young and old, a yarn, the craic, the lore/ A heart of corn in every sense, with culture to the fore.”
In his youth, Davy used to hitchhike around Ireland, thumbing lifts to anywhere from Kerry to Derry or Galway to Dublin.
Old age did not get in the way of him pursuing his love of travelling. In the past 12 months alone he visited Kuwait, the Philippines, Lourdes, Birmingham and had just returned from a family wedding in Donegal two days before he died.
Davy (78) died peacefully in his sleep on August 25. He is survived by his children Rosemary, Katrina, Conleth and Bronagh, his six grandchildren and large family circle.
A fluent Irish speaker, who promoted the language at every opportunity, as a tribute from Conradh na Gaelige, An Lorgain his month’s mind Mass was celebrated in Irish in the Adoration Chapel, Edward Street, Lurgan on Tuesday 30th September.
Codladh Sámh a Daithí.