THIS week’s Bygones is saluting the founder member and chair of Reading Clonmel Town Twinning Association, Richard ‘Dick’ O’Brien, who passed away recently after a long illness.

The twinning of Clonmel and Reading may not have occurred, but for a chance conversation between Dick O’Brien and the (then) Mayor of Clonmel, Vera Hewitt, during the official opening of a new Gaelic football pitch at the Rivermead Leisure Centre in May 1992.

Irish Ambassador to the UK, Joseph Small, a former All Ireland medal winner at U-18 level with Tipperary in 1955, referred to Gaelic Games as being a very important part of Irish culture.

Dick O’Brien told the Chronicle at the time: “It would be ideal to arrange for people from Clonmel and Reading to exchange visits, but everyone from Ireland who is interested in being involved would be most welcome.”

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For many years after Dick arranged exchange visits and kept the link with Clonmel alive with the annual help of the town’s Mayors.

Reading celebrated a quarter of a century of twinning with Clonmel, Eire, during a three-day visit in 2019 by civic dignitaries from Co. Tipperary.

The Mayor of Reading, Cllr Debs Edwards, welcomed Clonmel’s Mayor, Cllr Richie Molloy, to special evening in Reading Town Hall, where both towns signed a Reaffirmation charter in front of invited guests from both communities.

In a speech after the charter signing, Dick O’Brien, thanked both Mayor’s for their support: “I am very pleased that our long-standing friendship is being officially recognised today, we must celebrate the kinship between us and take it forward into the future.”

During the evening guests were entertained by Irish dancers and took the chance to view local photographer, Chris Forsey’s exhibition “Reading and Clonmel: A Twinning History”.

The following day, despite the icy conditions underfoot, a civic party visited Reading Museum and Abbey Quarter and had a guided tour of the Forbury Gardens and Abbey ruins, followed by a visit to the Reading Irish Centre in Chatham Street, to watch the rugby international between Ireland and England.

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Although Dick was born in nearby Cashel, home the famous “Rock of Cashel”, he never tired of reminding visitors to his Tilehurst home that (despite his links with Clonmel), he should be known as “The man from the Rock”.

The current Mayor of Reading, Cllr David Stevens, paid tribute to Dick in a message to Bygones: “It is with great sadness that we have learned of the passing of Dick O’Brien, who was a much loved and highly regarded member of the Reading Community.

“His contribution and dedication to the Clonmel Association, which brought together our two towns, has been invaluable and he will be very much missed by the Mayoralty. We send our deepest condolences to his family at this sad time.”