“As far as I know he used to live mostly in Jim Joe’s house or rather Uncle Jim’s and Aunt Annie’s - I suppose because there were two boys in the family - that’s how he became so friendly with Fr. Mick but he probably went to live at home when Jim Joe and Mick went to St Columb’s. I don’t know much about that time. He used to pal around with Paddy McGlade - or maybe it was just that Paddy was related to Jim Joe and Brigid and that they all grew up together.
Bridie reminded me about Brigid’s younger sister, Maggie who went to Thornhill convent. She remembers the day Maggie came home from Derry, sick - with T.B.. It appears that some other girl from Draperstown was at Thornhill as well and was supposed to keep an eye on Maggie. She used to hear Maggie coughing a lot at night and at other times as well - so she told one of the nuns who said she was just being neurotic and ignored it. So Maggie got worse and had to come home. She was in bed for about a year in the bedroom beyond the sitting room upstairs (in Jim Joe’s - the same room where Fr. Mick would later be confined to bed - now part of Seamus’s house). The window was removed for extra air but it was too late and Maggie died - I never knew her, though I used to hear them talking about her. That was the reason why I was sent to Coleraine.
When I went to live in Straw, Brendan was working with Daddy (Frank Kelly Snr). He would have been sixteen then, in 1935, so I suppose you could say he was an apprentice with the other boys in the workshop - namely, John Cleary and Paddy Loughran from the Sixtowns. Paddy Murphy and Jim McKernan came later and then Kevin (Duffy?) as well as Mickey McLaughlin from Derry (his father had a pub on Bishop Street). When Brendan was about fourteen he used to get the Hobbies annual and would send for woodworking patterns and he was very good at fretwork - he used to make small picture frames and varnish them - they were really well done (with a small hacksaw).
Then Daddy got a lathe with a foot pedal and Brendan used to make things, I suppose like bannister rails and chair legs etc. - we all had a go at it. I remember somebody telling me; maybe it was Brendan himself, that when he went to St Columb’s to do the entrance scholarship, he deliberately failed it because he wanted to work at home at carpentry and building. I think he may have regretted that in later years especially when he went to work at Stone and Webster in Canada, though he did very well with them.
About 1937, Fr Mick (Kelly) was very ill with rheumatic fever and was in bed for a long time.When he was convalescing he had a his ‘den’ in the the front room downtairs (in Jim Joe’s) where he started to experiment with radio and built a short wave set and of course Brendan was involved in it too. I think that’s where he actually learned all that and must have been interested in electricity too. I think he went to work with Tim Henry of Magherafelt who was an electrician and repaired radios etc - battery sets! Fr Mick was also into photography in a big way - that’s how he came to have so many photos of our wedding. He enlarged them in a darkroom set up on one of the small rooms behind our kitchen
Fr Mick was ordained in Dec. 1935 and he went to Burma about 1937 or 38. He didn’t return home until 2nd of June 1947 - the day before we got married and he assisted at our wedding with Uncle Joe and Fr. Charlie Vallely. It must have been around then that Michael Kelly from the Metropole Hotel in Derry came to see about getting the late Mrs Cauley’s house renovated. She was his aunt and Michael’s sister had lived with her up until she died. The house was gutted and modernised and when the war came, Margaret Deehan arrived from Derry with Michael’s children. I mention Michael Kelly because Brendan got into the shipyard in Belfast to work as an electrician and, as far as I know, Michael Kelly had pulled strings somewhere and got him into the electrician’s union (necessary for getting a shipyard job). I don’t know how long he stayed there but later he went to work in the Derry shipyard - it maybe was safer there. While he was in Derry he stayed with a teacher and his wife, (Tommy Carr) who kept a couple of other fellas too - one of them was John Crampsie from Ballymagorry near Strabane. John and his two or three brothers had a great danceband - they were all really good musicians - John had his A.T.C.L. degree in music at the age of 10. He played clarinet and was well worth listening to. I heard him a couple of times on his own. Unfortunately John was very fond of the bottle and gradually Brendan followed suit. He seemed to spend all his money in the pub and never had a ha’penny when he should have been saving a bit, for he had great wages in the shipyard.
When he was working in Derry, Michael Kelly of the Metropole Hotel used to invite him round to listen to records of highbrow music. I remember looking for Brendan one evening (I was in Derry for a couple of years then) and I finally tracked him down to a small sitting room - he was there with Michael and a few other ‘guests’ and he had very appreciative look on his face. Try as I might, I couldn’t catch his eye - I was in a hurry at the time - but he withered me with a look every time I tried to attract his attention. I had to wait until the end to the ‘recital’ before I could get talking to him. It was like being in the ‘Holy of Holies’! I suppose I was lucky not to have him thrown out I’m not sure that the ‘appreciative look wasn’t for Michael’s benefit - he may have appreciated the music alright but it was a bit too highbrow for me.
I don’t know much about Brendan’s love life but I do know that he and Alice Donnelly from Cahore did a strong line at one time (probably in his late teens). Alice was a sister of Colm’s and of Michael Regan’s wife. Then Alice entered the civil service, went to work in London and never came back, eventually getting married there. She was very smart looking, dressed very well and she never changed much over the years. She was at the G.A.A. anniversary celebrations a number of years ago - she used to play camogie. I don’t know of any other romances of his until about 1944 when he was still in Derry and started to go with Mary Kane from out Glenelly direction. When he was back in Straw he used to go visit her in Belfast but it appears that one very cold night he went to see her and she kept him standing at the door and didn’t invite him in to her digs - no explanation - so that finished it. I suppose when the war was over in 1945, he came back to Straw and was working with Daddy at Cloverhill when he met Trudie. When Trudie came on the scene and he was quickly smitten.
Brendan played hurling at one time but I don’t think he was one of the great players. I saw him at it a few times - a middling sort of player probably something like myself at the camogie - good and bad days. I don’t think he bothered with football at all. Brigid and Bridie were the stars. Brigid could even beat Jim Joe at the ‘poc fada’
We never took many snaps in those days as we never had a camera so that would account for the lack of evidence! Brendan got a very good camera when he was in the shipyard. He was coming out of it one evening and a Canadian or a Yank offered him one very cheaply and he jumped at the chance. As he was interested in all that, he made good use of it.
At one stage Brendan worked at Limavady (Ballykelly?) airfield, an R.A.F. one, and while he was there he discovered that Fr. Joe McGlade from Belfast was chaplain to the airforce there. Fr Joe was a redheaded priest and great crack. He was a cousin of Paddy McGlade’s and used to come up on holidays to McGlade’s, so Brendan and he were good friends,
Brendan used to ceilidhe a lot in Nora O’Kane’s where she lived with her brother Henry who was on crutches all the time.. He had been interned during the war with several others from Draperstown. I think he must have had polio at one stage of his life. Rois was his other sister. If ever there was a Republican stronghold, that was it. Nora was on the feis committee and was steeped in all things Irish, so some of it had to rub off on Brendan. Uncle Joe used to visit at Nora’s a lot for he would have been very close to them all in his younger days when the troubles were rife."
Editor's note. Brendan's daughter, Nuala, has updated some of this information and supplied us with a clipping from The Northern Constitution of half a century ago, an ad for the sale of Cloverhill. It must have been a grand place indeed, one of the "big houses" of the aristocracy.
It was only natural that a man called Brendan would one day sail west from Ireland in search of the Land of Promise, the Land of the Ever Young, Tir na nOg.
After their marriage in 1947, Brendan and Trudie sailed to Canada where Brendan worked in Petawawa, Ontario as an electrician doing jobs mostly in the Canadian Forces Base (C.F.B. Petawawa, training ground and home of a large part of Canada's "peacekeeping" army for over a hundred years). It was during their stay there that their home began to become a meeting place and even a first place to live in Canada for a number of new Irish immigrants. Paddy Loughran, Brendan Carlin, Jim Joe Kelly and Brendan’s father Frank Kelly and his family all passed through the Kelly house in Petawawa in the early 1950’s. (Some of the flavour of those times is recounted in the ‘Canada’ section, page 109)
Brendan and Trudie stayed there for some years before moving to Arnprior further east along the Ottawa River. They then moved to Brockville along the St Lawrence River where Brendan got a job in 1963-4 with the American company, Stone and Webster which sent him to various parts of Canada and the U.S.
At one stage of his S&W career, when he worked down east, he drove a very distinct and now, extinct, DeSoto, a bright red one which was noticed wherever he went. He may have driven this from Nova Scotia when the whole family made the move back to Ontario. He later cut the old DeSoto in half intending to add a trailer section on the back of it but it never got finished.
He built a house in Brockville and that is where their two children, Nuala and Brendan were born. In the mid sixties they moved to Scarborough, a suburb of Toronto, where they settled and their children went to school.
By this time Brendan was taking supervisory positions with Stone and Webster, overseeing electrical and pipefitting work in breweries, chemical plants and mineral smelting plants all over Ontario; Sarnia, Sudbury, Hamilton, and further afield in New Bruswick, Quebec, the Okanagan Valley in B.C., Michigan, Boston, staying in these places, himself, for varying lengths of time rather than uprooting the family again. He had devised a time management system for S & W which he used to keep jobs on track.
One of the highlights of those years was his work in the Montreal Forum, the home of the “Habs”, the Montreal Canadians. Those were the years of great Montreal (and Toronto Maple Leaf) ice hockey teams, so working in that hallowed hockey shrine was a real thrill for him. On other jobsites in Quebec where labour relations were often very tense, Brendan was a troubleshooter of sorts and was considered a good mediator between tradesmen and upper management with a reputation for understanding the problems of both sides in any conflicts that arose and for his ‘no bullshit’ attitude.
He enjoyed car racing and set up car rallies while in Brockville. He and friend, Englishman, Joe Stead went to Mosport racetrack outside Toronto every year with most of their families in tow to see the likes of Jackie Stewart, John Surtees and Bruce McLaren tearing up the track.
Other friends and colleagues during those years were people like Jim Finn, a Southern Irishman, Joe Booth, Des Scott from Cookstown, Co Tyrone, engineer, Ed Rohatinski, Fr. Harold O’Neill and countless others who came and went on business and/or to enjoy the Kelly hospitality at Christmas, St Patrick’s day or any other time of the year when a glass of Captain Morgan’s could be raised (anytime). Again some of the new Irish immigrants who came in droves to Canada in the late 1960’s and early 70’s made the Kelly house at 67 Janray Drive in Scarborough their starting point, their holiday home, their stop off on the way out west, or just a place to meet other Irish visitors and immigrants. Myself, Seamus O’Kane, Anne Donnelly, Olivine Kelly, Michael Kelly, Pat Toner, all form Draperstown, Declan Vallely (Armagh), Tony Keenan (Gortin), Pat O’Neill, Bridie (Brendan’s sister) and Jim McConnell, Mary (sister) and Jim Vallely, Father Joe (uncle), Father Mick (cousin) all stayed anywhere from one night or a day or two, a few weeks, right up to 18 months (in my case) at #67 where the Failte sign was always up, until I must have nearly knocked it down!
As many Irish immigrants do, Brendan, around 1967, began taking a keen interest in arts and crafts of Irish or Celtic origin. It wasn’t long before the basement at #67 became not just a carpentry workshop but a studio, a photo lab, a silkscreen shop, a metalwork shop, almost a foundry, churning out a potent mixture of Christian knotwork, barbaric imagery, coats of arms, sculpture, all in an equally potent atmosphere of paint, varsol and chemical fumes, wood dust, cigar smoke, and rum aroma, the combined traces of which probably remain there to this day, 23 years after his death. Most of us who passed through there, worked at some aspect of the Kelart ‘production’, all visitors commandeered to contribute artistically, critically, or to sweat it out during some of those hot, humid, Toronto, summer months. Some of it was paid labour and some of it was unforced slave labour but mostly it was ‘for the crack’.
Brendan sold his banners, shields, swords, helmets, nameplates, roadsigns, harps, crosses, pen sets and hope chests at fairs, feiseanna, cultural events, and shops all over Canada and the United States and I’m sure even in Ireland. One of his final (and finest) pieces was a sculpture of a piper, the bronze of which is still in the Kelly family "vaults". The silvery aluminium version of it was to be sent to Ballinascreen to become a prize at the South Derry Feis, the “Frank Kelly Award for original fiddle music composition” in honour of our father.
All of the work was done in his spare time although, during downturns in the Canadian economy, he would have worked almost full time at the crafts. He never really retired but by 1985 he was devoting more of his time to woodwork and sculpture, doing contract work on the side in business consultation, (with his daughter Nuala as a partner in their company, BRANCO) and in carpentry jobs, up to his death 3 years later.
During those final years, he thoroughly enjoyed creating designs from the Book of Kells, the Brendan voyage imagery, Ogham script, Celtic animal pictures in raised copper panels to decorate his fine oak chests and shields but he was also enthusiastically educating himself in the finer points of metal casting, as he visited foundries and sculpture studios. Nevertheless, towards the end, he said he was glad to get back to the old familiar ground of construction sites too, where the work was more cut and dried, more organised around the work day that he had been so used to for years.
(See “Crafty Kellys” for other work done by Brendan in those years.)