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Irish immigrant happy to give back


Aidan Kavanagh - Born: April 26 1932 | Died: January 24 2020

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Aidan was born to Annie and Michael Kavanagh in Dublin, Ireland, the youngest of six children including a son who died at 14 months.

His father was a clerk in The Irish Catholic newspaper but due to ill health had to retire at an early age. Aidan was only six when his father retired and the family fell on very hard times. It meant his sisters who were dressmakers had to cycle miles to work every day and Aidan and his brother had to work on the small plot of ground growing vegetables and raising chickens. Due to a teachers’ strike in Ireland Aidan finished school at 13 – which he was very happy to do!

Like many young Irish lads he had to emigrate to England to find work. After doing various jobs in England he was conscripted into the English Army. After his two years in the army he joined the P&O Shipping Lines. He loved his time in the Merchant Navy, travelling the world and broadening his horizons. His knowledge was vast and he was very interested in politics.

On a visit to Ireland in the late 1950s he met Carmel at a Ceili (traditional Irish gathering) in the Mansion House in Dublin. That changed his life completely. He married Carmel in September 1960 and retired from the Navy.

After their marriage the couple lived in Letchworth, Herts, England and Aidan worked for the Britannia Assurance Company in Bedford where he quickly rose through the ranks.

But Aidan had grown to love Australia when he visited with the Navy and after a lot of persuasion he convinced Carmel to emigrate. In 1967 Aidan and Carmel with their three children, David, Anne and Kathryn emigrated to Australia.

They arrived on a Saturday and on the following Monday Aidan started working with the T&G Insurance Company. Shortly after their arrival they purchased a house in Thurles Street, St Marys.

It was a wonderful place to live. Within a week of arriving Fr Tom Horgan and Fr Denis Edwards welcomed them into
St Bernadette’s parish. They arranged for members of the congregation to visit them. Other neighbours of various faiths made them welcome too. Their fourth child John was born in 1970. Continually reminding the family that he was the only true Australian, John would march around with his flag on Australia Day.

The Kavanaghs quickly became part of the fabric of the parish and enjoyed being involved in family groups, parish picnics and school plays. Shortly after their arrival members from the St Bernadette’s Credit Union visited them and invited them to join the credit union. It was a wonderful organisation and soon Aidan was volunteering on a Saturday morning in their small office.

Aidan also began to follow the Glenelg Tigers and could be seen with his neighbour Gordon and their children in pouring rain or sunshine at Glenelg Oval. When he eventually had a son-in-law who played for the Tigers he was over the moon. The Tigers’ grand final win in September 2019 was such a highlight for him. He drank champagne from the Cup and stayed celebrating till midnight.

Aidan was very proud of his children’s achievements in both academia, business and sport. He encouraged them at every level and this encouragement continued with his 10 grandchildren. He loved to see them competing and would try to attend every event, school speech days, softball, football, soccer, athletics, netball and anything they were involved in. He made them feel like a super hero. He loved to cook for his grandchildren and his roast potatoes were famous.

Aidan was very grateful for the opportunities he and his family had been afforded in Australia and was very conscious of the need to help others. For more than 20 years he was a volunteer with Vinnies, St Marys Conference. He did visitations and delivered food to the needy, also helping with the bread round on a Sunday.

He was an ordinary man who did everything to the best of his ability.

– Carmel Kavanagh


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