January 13th 2023, Lima.
Well, this is a blog I wish I was not writing. I have just learnt of the death of my friend, benefactor and guardian angel in Punta Arenas, Patricio Corcoran. He died yesterday, apparently after a short illness, but more I know not. He was only 68 and looked in great shape, to me at any rate.
Patricio was a lovely man — handsome, smart, warm, successful, big into his family and quietly proud of his Irish roots. He ran a food distribution company and medium-sized supermarket in Punta Arenas, right at the far bottom end of Chile, and was also a sheep and cattle rancher. He was very well known in the business community, tourism and hospitality sector in Chile’s southern-most region, Magallanes y Antarctica,
I was introduced to him in early 2020 by Ireland’s ambassador to Chile, Paul Gleeson. I wrote about him here https://tip2top.ie/patricio-corcoran/ on April 3rd 2020. A few days later, as Covid overwhelmed everything and brought my gallop to a shuttering halt, I asked Patricio was there any possibility at all of putting my motorbike into one of his warehouses because, on balance and with a stay-at-home curfew about to be imposed, I had to abandon my trip and return to Ireland.
Without a moment’s hesitation he said yes, of course. We both thought it would be for a couple of months. . . it turned into two and a half years. But, true to his word, Patricio never betrayed any exasperation at this monster-sized intruder in his warehouse, month after month after month and I never, ever had any doubt but that my precious bike was in good care. When I told Patricio that I was returning last November, he had it taken to a local mechanic for a service and change of fluids — ready for me to resume my adventure. That was the sort he was — thoughtful and kind.
He took me to dinner later that night — a wonderful meal of local seafood in one of Punta Arenas’ top restaurants and we chatted about all sorts of things. Despite Chile’s political turmoil, Patricio was essentially optimistic and, while I doubt that he shared all of the current left-wing president Gabriel Boric’s politics, he said he liked him, thought he was fundamentally a good person and that he wanted him to succeed for the sake of the country. I wrote about my return and meeting Patricio again here: https://www.irishtimes.com/life-style/people/2022/12/03/reunited-with-the-motorbike-i-left-behind-in-santiago-my-great-retirement-project-resumes/
I struggled to think when I was returning what I could bring Patricio as a present from Ireland. I didn’t really know him well enough, his likes and dislikes but I did know he valued his heritage. So I got him one of those heraldic family name, hand-painted scrolls for the Corcoran clan. And I got his wife a thick wool throw. He seemed chuffed with the scroll and told me later that his wife loved the throw. I was pleased at that. I really, really hoped they would come to Ireland for a holiday when he retired, which he was thinking about. It would have given me such pleasure to share our place in west Mayo with them.
I wanted to meet him again after I’d got to Alaska and written the book. He’ll be in it but now, I am so so sorry that I will never see him again. And so sorry too for the great shock and grief I am sure his family and many close friends are feeling now.
He is survived by his wife, Sylvia Blackwood, and their three children and 10 grandchildren.
Dear Peter! We feel only proud for your words.. it was his essence.
He always was worried about the bike and he enjoy it.
I send you a big hug and please let me thank you in the name of the family for the words you write for him.
Ah Brian, thank you so very much for this. You are kind beyond words in your moment of grief. I so liked your Dad, even though I hardly knew him but you know, sometimes a person comers across in a strong way through the briefest of encounters. That was your Dad: a lovely warm, and genuine person, always ready to help and making it so easy for the person seeking that help. Even though I cannot claim to have known your Dad well, I have found his death really upsetting — partly because it was so unexpected, partly because I had seen him so recently and apparently in good health, and partly because . . . well, I just liked him so much. I hope you and your siblings, and your Mum, can take comfort in your memories of the man that he was and the good that people saw in him, as I am sure you all did too. I am not a native Irish speaker, but we have a saying in Irish, a salutation to those who have departed. It goes: Ar dheis Dé go raibh a h’anam dílis’ which means, roughly, ‘may his soul be on the right side of God’. Please remember me to your mother and to your siblings and, one day, I hope that we may meet.