EDDIE CUMMINS, the patriarch of a large family long associated with Dewsbury’s Irish Catholic community, has died peacefully at the age of 86.
Friends and family have paid tribute to a man who came to England when he was 16 and whose life revolved around his family and his two enduring loves – Dewsbury Celtic and Dewsbury Irish National Club. He was a life vice-president of both.
Mr Cummins’s oldest surviving son Mick described his father as “a very sensitive man”, his younger brother Eddie Jr adding: “He was soft as a brush at heart and very caring.”
Another son, Paul, remarked: “But if there was something that needed saying, dad would say it!”
Eddie Cummins was born in Dublin but grew up in Edenderry, Co Offaly, a place he often returned to – the last time just two years ago with Eddie Jr, the third of his eight sons, along with two daughters.
After moving to England he joined the RAF and served in the Second World War, although his role remains something of a family mystery.
“We know he was in the Middle East and Aden,” said Mick. “We used to say he was responsible for blowing the planes’ tyres up,” quipped Eddie. “He definitely wasn’t a pilot!”
Military service led him to Dewsbury, however, along with his RAF pal Joe Smith, who stood as best man for Eddie when he married the love of his life. He met Nellie Barber when she was working behind the bar at The Clarence pub in Webster Hill and they married in 1949.
They were rarely seen apart until Nellie passed away in May 2008, just a few months before their eldest son Joe.
The family lived in Manor Road Westtown and returned there after a spell in Chickenley, Joe being their second child after Mary, followed by Mick, Cath, Eddie Jr, Tommy, Sean, Brendan, Paul and Martin. At the least count Eddie and Nellie’s family had spread to 26 grandchildren and 39 great-grandchildren.
They were never more proud than when Mick’s eldest son Francis signed for the Leeds Rhinos and went on to represent England and Great Britain – and later Ireland. Francis is now head coach of the Bradford Bulls.
Eddie worked as a steel fixer, a trade he fell into through his friendship with Joe Smith, though his life increasingly revolved around his growing family and ‘the Nash’.
Describing life in the Cummins household with 10 kids and associated friends, Eddie Jr said: “It was bedlam! But happy bedlam! Never quiet, that’s for sure.”
Mary added: “We thought we’d lost a brother for long enough, because mum was always saying ‘Jesus, Mary and Joseph’....”
It’s hard to remember a time when Eddie Cummins was not serving on the committee of the Nash and Saturday afternoons always found Nellie on his arm up at Crow Nest Park, watching their various sons and grandsons playing for Celtic from the glory days of the 60s and 70s, right through the club’s lean years.
Former Celtic stalwart Sam Morton commented: “I remember Eddie saying ‘I told them it wasn’t the Nash that put Celtic on the map, but Celtic that put the Nash on the map.’ He was devoted to both.”
The couple continued to make their ritual weekly journey just the 100 yards or so to the Nash until Nellie became too ill.
With an abundance of family and friends around him, Eddie lived peacefully in the family home, although he went out less and less. He was taken into Dewsbury District Hospital on Saturday morning, where he passed away peacefully at 7.30am on Wednesday.
A requiem funeral mass will be held at St Paulinus at 11am on Friday June 28. Friends and family will gather afterwards, not surprisingly, at the Irish Nash.