September 25 next will mark the 16th anniversary of the passing of the late, great TD and Limerick Mayor Jim Kemmy.
But the stonemason, trade unionist, politician and historian is still remembered as strongly as ever.
While being treated for bone marrow cancer in St James’s hospital in Dublin in 1997, his dying wish was that his extensive records – comprising more than 70 boxes whittled down from thousands of documents – be handed over to the University of Limerick. On Friday last, his wish was granted.
Patsy Harrold, 83, sat in the front row in the Glucksman library in the university, as tributes were paid to her former partner. While Jim lived in Garryowen for much of his life, he later moved in with Patsy, a widowed mother of six from John Street and six years his senior. They met at a meeting of an archaeological and historical society in the late 1970s, and went on “to spend the best part of 20 years together”.
However, she wasn’t prepared for the sudden upheaval he would have in her home. “He landed out to mine with all his books, and there wasn’t a bit of room left in the house. The books were everywhere, even in the hot press.
“They all came out of my house,” she said of the archives. “To look at them you’d think they were just bits of paper. He never had headed notepaper or anything like that. Any scrap of paper he could find at all, a white space, and Jim would fill it. You might get the history of Limerick on one page and the mason’s account on the other.”
While he wasn’t a “marrying man” or “a man for leisure at all”, she wasn’t too put out that “he was in love with his books. I’d all that marriage stuff behind me. I had enough on my plate without thinking about a second romance.
“He had a girlfriend before me but she got tired of him going to his meetings. He used to always laugh at that. So it left little time for romance.”
While the archive contains thousands of documents of great historical and social importance, some of the papers will be “sealed” or placed under an embargo for up to 100 years “to protect local families still alive”.