WE all dream of taking the bookies to the cleaners but very few of us have done it. One man who did was Barney Curley, a native of Irvinestown. He lived a remarkable life by any standards and his passing in May brought back great memories for many who knew him. When Barney was in primary school his granny used to send him to the bookies with a three sixpenny doubles and a sixpence treble every day when he came home for his lunch. One day he did a bet for himself and won £4, which was a real fortune in the 1950s. However, Barney was very religious and believed he had a vocation. On leaving school he entered Mungret College, Limerick, where he studied to be a Jesuit priest. One day when he was playing a soccer match he had terrible pains in his chest. He was rushed to hospital fearing he had had a heart attack but x-rays showed he was riddled with TB. He was sent to Forster Green Hospital in Belfast. “I had to lie on my back for twelve months,” he recalled. “They were dying like flies all around me. But I was young – I was just 21 at the time – and fortunately for me they’d just discovered a cure. The older folk and bad cases died. I was lucky to pull through.” The two and a half years in medical care gave him time to apply the philosophy he had acquired in college. “It took me another 18 months to get back to health. During my time in the sanatorium and the weeks and months of recuperation I formulated my own philosophy. I concluded that I wasn't going to worry about unimportant matters and that every day I woke up feeling fit and well was a bonus and that I might as well enjoy myself. For all the world like a person who wins a battle with cancer and gets another chance.” He returned to the seminary in Limerick but he decided that he would never be strong enough to finish the gruelling studies to become a Jesuit priest and returned to Irvinestown at the age of 24. This was in the early 1960s and his father’s shop had begun to fail. He and his father headed to Manchester to seek work. They worked a factory for £14 a week, renting a flat at £4 a week. They stayed just over a year and returned with enough money to renovate the home and re-open the shop.