Early February brought sad news with the death in Helsinki, Finland, of Liam Kelly. The eldest son of Mary and the late Liam Kelly of Church Street, Creagh, there was an added poignancy in the fact that the last time Liam had been home to Ireland was for his father's funeral in January 2020. Aged only 53, Liam had battled cancer for more than 7 years and his death led to a huge outpouring of sympathy for his wife, son and family from the numerous friends he had made in the hospitality industry in Helsinki since he moved there in 1987.
Known in his adopted home as ‘Billy’, Liam, who was a popular barman in different premises over the years, had such a positive impact on people's lives that the ‘Helsingen Sanomat’, the largest subscription newspaper in Finland, ran a major feature days later with the headline “Helsinki's Nightlife Legend of the 1990s Billy Kelly is Dead”. The article paid tribute to his warm and personable nature, his unflagging sense of good humour and his dedication to his wife Teija and son Luke.
There were also literally hundreds of tributes paid by former customers on social media and on the Facebook page of Helsinki`s Malaga Bar, patrons described Liam as “so unforgettable”, “so special and so amazing”, “always friendly, a good guy”, “warm, thoughtful and funny” and “legendary”. Liam never forgot his home in Ballinasloe and looked forward to his annual visits, timing them to help his father Liam draw home turf.
He was also in almost daily contact by phone with his mother Mary, his brothers Oliver, Michael, Declan, Alan and his sister Emer. He faced his illness with the most tremendous courage and never lost his irrepressible sense of humour. He died peacefully on 9th February with his wife, son and his brothers Michael and Alan by his side. His obituary in the ‘Helsingen Sanomat’ noted that “He will be missed in Helsinki”, but his loss is all the more keenly felt by his wife, son, mother and siblings and indeed all who were privileged to know him and have him as a friend. May he rest in peace.
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