The funeral has taken place of Tom Stack who served as Chief Fire Officer (CFO) for Co Clare for over three decades and who is credited with being instrumental in modernising the service.
Mr Stack, who passed away peacefully at his home in Ennis on Tuesday, was honoured by former colleagues and serving firefighters as his funeral cortege, led by a Garda patrol car and fire service vehicle, stopped outside Ennis fire station and Clare County Fire and Rescue Service’s headquarters on New Road.
Firefighters who served with Tom as well as current members, senior fire service management and Clare County Council CEO Pat Dowling, stood solemnly as the hearse stopped in front of the station for the specially planned guard of honour. Retired and serving fire officers from other counties as well as members of Clare Civil Defence also attended to pay their respects.
The ‘final bell’ was rung in a time-honoured tradition of fire services around the world. A bell was used to signal an alarm; to mark the beginning of a shift and a crew’s return to the fire station. It’s also rung to mark a firefighter’s final journey.
The bell was rung by fellow Kerryman, Clare County Fire & Rescue Service’s Senior Assistant Chief Fire Officer Denis O’Connell, once for each of the seven stations in Clare of which Tom was Chief Fire Officer.
Afterwards, members of Stack family stepped forward and applauded those who had gathered to pay their respects to the former Chief.
Tom Stack was a proud Kerryman from Moyvane who joined Clare County Council in 1954 and served as County/Chief Fire Officer until his retirement 32 years later in 1986.
During his career, Tom was instrumental in the modernisation of the Fire Service in County Clare. In the early 1960s, Clare County Fire Service carried out a construction programme that included the completion of Ennistymon Fire Station, and construction of stations at Kilkee and Kilrush for the sum of £10,000. Towards the end of the 60’s all of Clare’s Fire Stations were re-equipped with new purpose-built firefighting appliances at a total cost of £50,000. Throughout the 1970s there was substantial investment in training and the workforce.
Under CFO Stack’s leadership, by the 1980s, there were 7 fire stations in Clare, in Ennis, Shannon, Ennistymon, Scarriff, Killaloe, Kilrush and Kilkee, with 3 full-time personnel and 74 Retained Firefighters. Each station was manned by Retained Fire Personnel, with the crew comprising a Station Officer, Sub-Station Officer, Driver/Mechanic and between 7 and 9 firefighters. Personnel were notified by phone, pager and siren in the event of an emergency call-out occurring.
Training had improved since the 1960s, and included regular instruction in the use of breathing apparatus and cutting equipment. Much of the specialised training was carried out at Ennis Fire Station, with individual Brigades training regularly at their own stations.
While Tom retired from the Clare County Council in 1986, he never really left the fire service. Both himself and his wife Joan continued to attend the Chief Fire Officers Association Annual Conference up until recently.
Described as a gentle and courteous man, Tom had many interests and remained active in pursuing these late into his life. He was a frequent visitor to the Local Studies Department of the Clare Library Service where he pursued his love of history and was a daily visitor to the library where he read the newspaper, used the internet and often engaged with his friends in conversations “as gaeilge”.
He wrote a dissertation for a course in U.C.C. in 1996 called the “Tubber-Limerick turnpike road, 1733-1831, and some other roads and bridges in Clare” a copy of which is deposited in the Local Studies Centre. These were the precursors of the M18 and such, and Tom’s dissertation is frequently consulted to this day. He loved going through the bound back-issues of the “Clare Champion” from previous decades, at his leisure.
Chief Fire Officer Adrian Kelly addressed serving and retired members before the guard of honour at Ennis Fire Station on Thursday and spoke of Tom’s contribution to the development of the fire service in Clare.
Chief Kelly also said: “Messages of condolences have come from various part of the country, from former colleagues and currently serving Chiefs that would have got to know Tom and Joan over the years. Tom was also a regular at Fire Service HQ at Ennis Fire Station, imparting his considerable knowledge and history of the Fire Service in Clare of which he played a large part to the current cohort of officers.”
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dilís.