The late Bernard Berney
One of the largest funerals ever witnessed in Kilcullen occurred last week as hundreds of people turned out to bid adieu to one of its favourite sons, the late Bernard Berney.
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A man known to many through Berney’s Chemist on Main Street, the late Bernard was himself a tonic to every customer he ever served.
Whether you were feeling poorly, attending to a sick family member or grieving after a bereavement, Bernard showed compassion and stayed a little longer in conversation, just enough for every customer to feel a little better.
With his gift for comedy, he endorsed ‘Laughter is the best medicine’ at every opportunity.
Sabina Reddy who starred opposite the late Bernard in many a stage production recalled: “Bernard was like the local doctor, vet, pharmacist all rolled in one. Mam would be straight in looking for lotions and potions for the lambs and calves one week, and for her children on the next visit. He respected Mam, and they had many chats about her life in nursing”.
On stage, his acting ability was renowned. There was many a production I saw staged by Kilcullen Drama Society, and I always lauded the antics of ‘Messer Berney’ (Along with Messers Dunphy, O’Mahoney and Clarke, and so many other local actors he starred opposite). Bernard was a thespian who could take on a straight role but his comic adaptations were legendary.
His timing was superb and his delivery ace. He simply revelled in taking on difficult roles and the more ‘OTT’ the better.
Dick Dunphy came to Kilcullen in 1958 and forged a friendship with the young pharmacist, on and off the stage.
“Bernard is such a loss to the town,” said Dick, “He was intelligent, talented and tolerant and over the past 60 years, we produced or acted together in many a stage production. Only three weeks ago, I was involved with Wake in the West at the Town Hall. I couldn’t believe it when I looked out and saw him sitting in the audience to see the play. He got out of his sick bed to come and see it, such was the calibre of the man.”
Dick continued: “Whilst we were great buddies, we had many a row too, but Bernard never kept an argument going; if he was wronged, he was quick to forgive. If he was wrong, he was quick to admit it, hold his hand up and move on. He had a great sense of comedy. He’d read a script and would know straight away what needed to be done to impress an audience.
“The late Bernard was known to improvise with many a script, maybe not always appreciated by the author! The Lonesome West by Martin McDonagh was probably one of the favourite plays we acted in together” said Dick.
“Years ago, we starred in lots of one act plays for drama festivals and we won plenty in our day. We staged plenty of Joe Cooney comedies in our day, with Run for your Wife getting a great run”.
“He was so well liked” added Dick, “that the church and churchyard was packed with mourners and his daughter Helen gave a wonderful eulogy at the burial. I saw him the week before he died, strong in voice, his mind perfect but sadly, just his body fading”.
The late Bernard was a stalwart of Kilcullen GAA in earlier years and also, the advertisement contact for the Kilcullen Bridge magazine, of which he supported and contributed to.
Every fibre of his being was devoted to family and home town. Survived by his wife Mary, his children Helen, Emma and Laura and John; sons-in-law Shane, Danny and Garry; his daughter-in-law Michelle; sister Eileen and brothers, Jim and Tom; grandchildren Hannah, Grace, Conchobhar, Holly, Finn, Maedhbh and Rory and the extended family, his death notice also included Marie, “who cared for him lovingly right to the end”.
The late Bernard Berney, ‘the laughing pharmacist’ who made his last stage exit, rest in peace, lovely man, amen.