Bernie Keane, former Provincial President of Great Britain and a stalwart of the Roger Casements club in Coventry, passed away recently.
From Ballyhaunis in Mayo, Bernie was born in 1947 and arrived in the UK in 1963.
He immediately joined Roger Casements and the following year helped them lift the Junior Hurling Championship title beating St Finbarrs.
He became club chairman in 1980, holding the position until 1986.
He then became chairman of the Warwickshire minor county board and vice-chairman of the senior Warwickshire board.
He has since served as Provincial Treasurer for six years, Chairman of Underage Coaching and Games Development in Britain and vice chairman of the provincial council for three years.
He then went on to represent his club at provincial level, first becoming Treasurer of Britain GAA from 2002 to 2006 and then holding the title of President of the provincial council from 2009 until 2012.
Bernie was also trustee at Pairc na hEireann forming part of the original development committee for the grounds in 1985.
He was also Life President of Roger Casements.
Roger Casements said in a statement: “Roger Casements will forever be indebted to Bernie for his wise counsel, leadership and support and for setting the highest of standards that we continue to maintain today.”
Keane was also present for the Queen’s visit to Croke Park, attended Buckingham Palace events and accompanied the All Star hurlers to San Francisco.
But Bernie was known to be most proud of the progress of the GAA at underage in Britain which always meant so much to him.
Bernie told The Irish World in 2012, when he was stepping down as President of the provincial council: “It’s the lifeblood of the game. We won’t always be having emigrants from Ireland. We have to produce our own players.”
It was at the Roger Casements club that Bernie met his wife Margaret, from Athboy in Co. Meath.
Margaret also served on the Warwickshire county board in various positions and was a volunteer both on the gate at Páirc na hÉireann and in the kitchen. She was famous for her hospitality at Provincial council meetings.
Like Bernie, she was known for her dedicated service to club, county and province.
In 2017, Margaret was recognised for her outstanding commitment to the GAA by receiving the International Award at the GAA President’s Awards from Aogan O’ Fearghail.
She sadly passed away after a short illness in July 2018.
The Keane family would then face a legal battle to have the words In ár gcroíthe go deo (In our hearts forever) – inscribed on Margaret’s headstone, without an English translation.
However the family would win their appeal last year before the Church of England’s court – the Arches Court of Canterbury.
The court’s decision ended a near three-year legal struggle for the family.
Paddy Hoey, Chairman of Roger Casements GAA club, said of Bernie: “He was an integral part of the club, a great GAA man, a very good neighbour.
“He was a good friend to a lot of people and he always liked to see the right side of people.
“He was just one of those really, really nice guys.
“Himself and Margaret looked after a lot of people when they came to Coventry.
“Both on and off the field, they looked after a lot of lads when they came to Coventry.
“Bernie was very fair.
“He had great foresight when it came to looking after underage GAA.
“It’s ironic that Prionnsias Redican passed away and was buried last weekend, the two of them were an integral part of starting underage in the early 60s to mid 60s in Britain.
“He was a very big integral part of that.
“Obviously it was a great occasion when he became President of Great Britain.
“It was a very fitting position for him because he worked so hard looking after everybody.
“He was a very fair man.
“There’s no doubt about that.
“He struggled the last twelve months with his health but I would still speak to him on a regular basis.
“He would always want to know what was going on in the club.
“It’s a sad time for the club but it’s an honour to have known him really.
“Obviously we lost Margaret four years ago and there was a difficult time with the situation with Margaret and the headstone and that was a battle that they finally won and I’m glad that he was still around to see that happen.
“He’ll rest in peace with that.
“They’re a strong family, a good family and very close to Casements.
“He was very good to everybody, very good to me and anyone that’s involved in Casements.
“He was a very very proud Mayo man.
“He was the only hurler I ever knew from Mayo.
But he was a good one by all accounts.
“Everyone in the club had some dealing with Bernie and they were all good.
“Any position he ever held with the club, everyone always thought he was very fair and very straight.
“He had massive input in Pairc na hEireann from the early days, he was one of the original trustees.
“He had great foresight and he had a great passion for it.
“Our prayers and thoughts are with the family and anyone who knew Bernie.”
Martin Grogan, Assistant Treasurer on the Warwickshire County Board and also of the Roger Casements club, went back many years with Bernie.
Martin said: “I remember him in Ballyhaunis and I remember him hurling.
“He went to Coventry then but there was a great link with Roger Casements and Ballyhaunis.
“The trips were over and back and the craic was great.
“Actually I came here myself on a trip to Casements from Ballyhaunis and I’m still here. That was in 1974.
“He was a great influence in the club.
“A steady hand, he was very interested in underage.
“He was chairman of the minor board here in Warwickshire for years, and then he progressed onto the provincial council.
“But Margaret his wife they had two cars and there would be nine or ten in these cars going to matches, you couldn’t do it now.
“The club went through a bad patch. We won the championship in ‘79 in Warwickshire, and the following year about eight of them lads had gone back to Ireland or America.
“We struggled in the early ‘80s.
“At one stage the club nearly folded but I remember Bernie saying, ‘We’ve got to keep this club going for the people that founded it back in ‘56’.
“We rode the storm and to see the club where it is today- we’re fielding teams in every age group, men and women- It’s a testament to Bernie and Margaret.”
Michael Collins Warwickshire GAA are deeply saddened at Bernie’s passing. He gave his whole life to his club Roger Casements, his county Warwickshire and the province of Great Britain.
“He was the last Warwickshire man to be President of Britain, something we’re very proud of.
“He was a tremendous Gael.
“He and his wife Margaret were a fantastic couple for Warwickshire GAA. It was a GAA family through and through and the two of them were a massive help in a practical way, they would do anything to help.
“He was a fantastic man.
“He was a very popular man across all the clubs, no one had a bad word to say about Bernie.
“He was always there for advice and help.”
Noel O’Sullivan, President of the Provincial Council of Great Britain, said: “Bernie Keane will be sadly missed at his club of Roger Casements but also in the wider GAA communities of Warwickshire, Great Britain and beyond.
“He did so much to develop the game, particularly at underage during his time as President of the Provincial Council of Great Britain.
“He worked tirelessly for his club, county and province and his contribution will not be forgotten.
“Thoughts and prayers to his family and all who knew him.”
Conor McGinn MP, Irish-born Labour MP and Shadow Cabinet Minister, said: “Bernie was a stalwart of the Gaelic Athletic Association and contributed a huge amount to the Irish community in Britain over decades, always with his beloved Margaret at his side. After her death, he and his formidable, inspirational family – in the midst of their own grief – took a powerful stand again for equality, respect and the Irish language.
“Bernie was a true Gael and his legacy lives on through a thriving GAA in Warwickshire and Britain, and the work and passion of his family.”
Liam Conlon, Chair of the Labour party Irish Society, said: “Bernie was a wonderful, kind man who always put others first. In October 2021 he received the Labour Party Irish Society’s Gerry Ryan Community Award, and we had a great evening with him at Páirc na hÉireann, a second home for the Keane family. Our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time, especially his children – Colette, Michael, Vincent, Bernadette, Caroline and Donna”
Regarding Bernie Keane’s funeral arrangements, there will be a reception at 6pm at Holy Family Catholic Church, CV6 4GF on Tuesday 30 August.
Requiem mass will take place at 10.30am there on Wednesday 31 August.
There will then be burial at St Giles Meadow Churchyard, CV7 9GZ.
Following burial, there will be a reception held at Christ the King Community Centre, CV6 2AA.
Family flowers only please. Donations, if desired, can be made to Eamonn Fallon Goalkeeper Charity.