‘WEXFORD WILL BE A VERY QUIET PLACE WITHOUT HIM’
FRANK SINNOTT RIP
HE ALWAYS LEFT ME WITH A SMILE ON MY FACE. I’M SURE I’M NOT THE ONLY ONE HERE TODAY WHO CAN SAY THAT AND IT’S A LOVELY THING TO BE ABLE TO SAY ABOUT SOMEBODY AT THE END OF THEIR EARTHLY PILGRIMAGE – BISHOP DENIS BRENNAN
THE death of the irreplaceable, larger-than-life Frank Sinnott, one of the best-known characters in Wexford, came as a shock to a town well used to his booming voice, cutting-edge humour and keen eye.
Music and snooker promoter, musician, journalist, poet and author, Frank was found dead in his flat in John’s Gate Street last Tuesday night. He was just 65 and would have been 66 in November.
His death follows that of his brother Maurice at the age of 68 in January and his mother Marie at the age of 99, just 30 minutes before Maurice’s funeral.
Frank was shaken to the core by his mother’s passing.
As he himself put it at the time: ‘Maurice’s death was very sad, but my mother’s was a disaster’.
He is survived by his brother Declan and a wide circle of family and friends.
Everyone knew Frank, but relatively few people knew him well, although ‘almost everyone’ has a Frank story to tell, from buying scratch cards from him to listening to his many stories... and there were many.
One who knew Frank better than most, Denis Collins, said he had known him for more than 40 years and found it hard to believe he would no longer be walking down past the gallery on the way down Rowe Street into town as he had for many years.
‘He lived in Peter’s Square and I lived in Waterloo Road and used to pass his house every day on the way to school,’ said Denis. who at that time played in a traditional music group and, as did many other budding musicians in Wexford at the time, drew on Frank’s formidable talents as a guitar teacher.
‘He created a persona for himself...how he presented himself to the world, he was a musician, a newspaperman, a promoter and was good at all of them,’ he said.
Denis recalled that Frank literally ran his office from the phonebox on the corner of Roche’s Road and Peter’s Square, and when the phone rang, people would go to his house to tell him there was a call for him.
Photographer Padraig Grant said Frank would be sorely missed in his circle at The Red Kettle and in Rowe Street.
‘He’s pretty much the only other person I could talk to about cricket. He had a secret passion for the game and absolutely loved it. He was delighted when Ireland was elavated to test status this year,’ said Padraig.
‘Everybody I met in town was talking about Frank today. Wexford is going to be a very quiet place without him.’
A photograph of Frank in his office taken by Padraig in 1988 will be published in his new book ‘Padraig Grant’s Wexford - Part 2’ and had already been selected for inclusion.
‘I hadn’t told Frank he’d made the book because I know how much he liked seeing himself in print! I was going to surprise him with it,’ said Padraig.
Last Wednesday, as news of Frank’s passing spread, social media was soon flooded with tributes to a man who had no peers in the town he had not ventured far from for decades.
A few weeks ago, he was entertaining the crowds in the Bullring with Declan at a fundraising gig for Pieta House and Wexford Women’s Refuge.
Whatever was going on in the town, Frank would know all about it and was ever-present in Rowe Street, even unmistakably appearing on Google Street View, recognisable despite his face being obscured in the web image.
Everyone knew Frank. Among his closest friends were George Lawlor, Paul, in the Bank, Catherine, in Mary’s Bar, Nicky Murphy, the taxi driver, Mick O’Brien, in Snippets, the late Father Fritz in the Friary, the late Fr Tom Flanagan, head of the Coptic religion in Ireland, the late Colman Doyle, whose jumper he lampooned in his Odds and Sods newspaper columns and the late Fergie Kehoe, restaurant owner and councillor.
Nicky Furlong, historian and author, described him as a 21st Century Cicero.
He had a number of regular haunts around Wexford town.
In recent years, one of the tables outside the Red Kettle in Mallin Street and those at Cappuccino’s on the corner of Rowe Street and Main Street were often graced with his presence.
He frequented both, a cigarette and cup of coffee in hand as he surveyed the world going by, loudly aiming jibes and comments, often caustic, but always good humoured, at those who knew and entreaties towards those he would like to.
Woe betide anyone who complained about his vidid and frank descriptions of them in his writings for his various publications, because he would retort that ‘you better shut up, or I’ll write something worse next week’.
‘He liked small women, crisps and horses, but not in that order,’ said one among a group of Frank fans gathered at the Red Kettle following news of his death.
While music - always his passion - dominated much of his life, in recent years Frank brought former snooker greats, including Jimmy White and Denis Taylor, to the town.
In the 1970s, along with Lorcan Ennis, Frank was one of the organisers of the Festival of Living Music, which attracted some of the top acts of the day, The Strawbs, Rick Wakeman, Fairport Convention and Horslips, in which his brother Declan was then a guitarist.
Frank was very well known in the town as a guitar teacher and in recent times had been trying to revive this aspect of an eclectic career that included at one time the ownership and editorship of ‘The Boker’ free newspaper, which he set up in 1982 and sold to People Newspapers a few years later.
In the late 1980s Frank set up a new free sheet, The New Wexford Gazette, pulling in a significant revenue. However in 1992 Frank became too ill to run the publication and it folded.
Later, he wrote for the County Wexford Free Press and was a frequent caller to many friends and acquaintances he wanted to advertise in it.
Frank wrote four books, ‘View from a Bridge,’
‘View from a
Bridge Volume 2’ and two volumes of ‘Frank Sinnott’s Book of Jokes’ and co-wrote Fr Fritz’s book Love from Zamiba.
A student of Wexford CBS, Frank published his first poem when he was just 14 years old. ‘An Ode to Bifra’ was published in the Evening Herald and seeing his poem in print for the first time affirmed a love of writing that was to remain with him all his life.
During his journalistic career, Frank interviewed many of Wexford’s leading creatives including playwright Billy Roche and musician Pierce Turner.
At his funeral Mass in the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Rowe Street on Friday, his brother Declan spoke movingly to an attendance which included Bishop Denis Brennan and many of the town’s business owners, celebs and charity volunteers. In between sad sobs, Declan, a
internationally-acclaimed musician, spoke about ‘his little brother Frank’ and how he was ‘Frank’s big brother, Dekkie’. They ‘grew up together and went through unimaginably, unthinkable hard times.
Said Declan, ‘A hard time, a very hard time. Unimaginably hard time. It shaped him in all kinds of ways; his resilience and his refusal to let it get to him is just unbelievable.
‘He became something that his father could never imagine, [I don’t know] how he would manage, but he did. He seemed to know everybody on a one to one basis. He knew everybody on a personal basis. He knew the whole town on that basis.
‘My relationship with him – I was his big brother. Right from the beginning, all the way through I never became anything except his big brother and he was my little brother. We wouldn’t talk for months sometimes. He would say something and that’d be it. We’d make a phone call and wouldn’t know what happened. We’d understand each other. On we’d go from there. We’d understand we were stupid.’
Declan said the last time he met Frank was when he had played at the Arts Centre.
‘That afternoon, he suggested that we go down- there was a benefit in the market in the Bullring- for the Women’s Refuge. Frank asked me would I come down and sing a few songs. And I said I would if you will.
‘Eventually, he came in and said yes. We hadn’t sung together for years. We were in a group together years ago called Tapestry and we recorded a couple of songs. The first time I was in a recording studio was recording two songs written by Pierce Turner and Larry Kirwan. We’d always do a Simon and Garfunkel song or whatever.
‘So, we went down to the Bullring. I pulled out the guitar and started to play. A handful of people. It was wonderful. A lot of people took fright. Frank was wrong in the first chorus, wrong in the second chorus, in the third chorus, in the fourth chorus. We just prayed. It was so Frank. He’ll be missed by the town.’
During the Mass, Declan with guitar, accompanied by his partner Vickie on backing vocals, sang the Bob Dylan song, ‘I Shall be Released’.
Bishop Denis told the congregation of how, when he arrived in the sacristy for the funeral, he met Frank Flanagan who was Eucharistic Minister at the Mass.
The bishop told him: ‘Frank would be delighted you’re here’. ‘During Mass it occurred to me that Frank used to refer to Frank Flanagan as “the Pope.” So Frank has the Bishop and the Pope at his funeral. That should appeal to his impresario instincts,’ said Bishop Denis.
‘Since Frank left us on Wednesday morning many people have spoken about his life and times. I don’t need to repeat any of that today. ‘All I want to say is that when Frank called up to Bishop’s House, which he did from time to time, (and) if he was here now he would probably say “you’re ruining my reputation as a rock and roller”. He used to ambush me in Mallin Street; it was always hard to get past the Red Kettle without an audience with Frank. He always left me with a smile on my face. I’m sure I’m not the only one here today who can say that and it’s a lovely thing to be able to say about somebody at the end of their earthly pilgrimage,’ said the Bishop, who concelebrated the Mass with Fr James Cullen.
Speaking to this newspaper after his brother’s funeral, Declan said that everyone in Wexford ‘knew the entity that was Frank, but what I know and they don’t know is what formed him when he was very young. It never broke his spirit.’
Bishop Denis Brennan gives a blessing outside Rowe Street church after Frank Sinnott’s funeral Mass.