Jean Paul Duncan - born 3rd May 1977, Dublin, Ireland.
"We cannot after all, judge a biography by its length, by the number of pages in it; we must judge by the richness of the contents ...Sometimes the 'unfinished' are among the most beautiful symphonies". - Viktor Frankl.
Cyril Duncan was born in Dublin on the 3rd of May 1977. He was christened Cyril Jean Paul Duncan in Saint Anne’s Catholic Church, Portmarnock, County Dublin. The Christian name Cyril he got from his paternal grandfather, a teacher, who died of a heart attack on the 22nd of July 1976. The name Jean Paul was from the late French Philosopher, Jean Paul Sartre, whom Cyril’s father Brian admired.
Cyril was the third child of Brian and Lek Duncan. He joined his brother Garmon and sister Genevieve in their family home in Portmarnock County Dublin where, some years later, they were joined by another sister; Pamela. Cyril’s father Brian is from Kilconnell, County Galway in the West of Ireland and is a solicitor. His mother, Lek, comes from Nakhon Si Thammarat in Southern Thailand, a noted centre of Buddhist teaching and culture and also famous for its beautiful Buddhist temple. Cyril’s maternal grandfather was an authority and recognised scholar on Buddhist Teachings and Philosophy, and Buddhist Meditation. Cyril’s parents met when Lek was studying in Dublin. Cyril, who loved to play around with the English language, described himself as a ‘Thailander’ or as a ‘Thairish’ man.
Cyril’s family home was in Portmarnock in North County Dublin. Portmarnock is an old seaside village with a beautiful beach and coastline, and is situated 15 Km. from Dublin City centre. Portmarnock is in that part of North County Dublin which is known as Fingal. Fingal refers to that area where old Viking settlements were established by Norsemen in years gone by and who intermarried with the native Irish. These Vikings lived for periods of time in Fingal. From time to time they went off on adventures to foreign lands and returned to Fingal after their years abroad.
Growing up, Cyril shared his family values which acknowledged the value of each individual person irrespective of religion, culture, race or economic background. Cyril, like his brother and sisters, was taught to discover his own truths together with the importance of spiritual and moral values, which his family believed were found in all the major world religions. He was also introduced to the great works of literature, art and world culture. He was always encouraged by his family to follow his own dream and to take his own journey to discover his own truth and destiny.
Cyril had very special qualities which were evident from an early age. The first quality one became aware of on meeting Cyril was his gentleness, sense of fun and his beautiful radiant smile. He was constantly smiling. His smile was one of Cyril’s qualities which immediately put people at ease. Cyril had a wonderful sense of humour for which he will always be remembered. He was a sensitive and gentle boy who was intuitively attuned to the feelings and problems of others. He also had very good co-ordination, something which he obviously got from his mother and his Thai genes. This quality enabled him to move graciously in life. Cyril loved to play around with the English language in a humorous and playful manner - with hilarious effect. Cyril, through his sensitivity, his wonderful smile and sense of fun had the special ability to resolve conflict among those he encountered and to make deep and lasting friendships throughout his life. He had the ability to reach out to vulnerable people on the margins of society - whether they were tea sellers in India or noodle vendors on the streets of Bangkok, or people he encountered in Dublin bars where he worked for many years.
through the playing fields…
Cyril attended Saint Marnock’s Primary School from 1981 to 1989 and Portmarnock Community School from 1989 to 1993. These schools were close to his home and he walked to school and back each day with his friends and siblings. Cyril, whilst not academically inclined, passed the usual academic milestones and enjoyed his time in school. He valued the friendships he made there and these friendships stayed with him all his life. Later on, Cyril attended Marino Technical School in Dublin where he completed a course in Film Production. Despite the encouragement of the course Director who saw future prospects for him in television, Cyril did not continue in that direction – although he developed a fascination with photography which stayed with him throughout his life. Cyril took many wonderful photographs on his foreign travels and they can be seen on this website. He retained a great interest in film and was fascinated by the works of Stanley Kubrick, Martin Scorsese and Alfred Hitchcock. Cyril was also fond of unusual and quirky films that were not necessarily box office successes. Though Cyril could not be described as a great reader, amongst his favourite books were ‘Scar Tissue’ by Anthony Kiedis, the Red Hot Chilli Peppers lead singer, ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’ by Mitch Albom and ‘The Alchemist’ by Paul Coelho. Cyril had a keen interest in personal spiritual development and in finding the right course in life. It was for this reason that he was attracted to Buddhism.
The work years…
Cyril worked in many pubs and nightclubs in Dublin from 1994 to 2005. He worked in Graingers Pub in Baldoyle, the Bloody Stream in Howth and he was particularly happy working as a barman in the well known pub, Gibneys in Malahide. Cyril worked as a Bar Manager in ‘The Chocolate Bar’ in Dublin’s best known nightclub at the time, The Pod, on Harcourt Street.
It was there that Cyril learned the art of cocktail making, a skill he later used to entertain his friends throughout the world. Cyril was a huge personality in ‘The Chocolate Bar’ and was even praised for his musical taste and ability to create a great atmosphere there by a journalist in a national newspaper. Upon leaving the bar business, Cyril took up his ‘to be favourite’ job in Ireland, working with IPS in Baldoyle. Cyril trained there and became a photocopier technician, whilst becoming good friends with his boss Les McDonnell and his co-workers.
In 1999 Cyril travelled with his family for the first time to his mother’s country, Thailand, as part of a cycling group, ‘The Blazing Saddles’ of which his father was a member. Cyril fell in love with Thailand from his first visit and always wanted to return. It was there in Chaing Mai that he visited his first Buddhist temple. Cyril had also caught the travel bug and from then on his ambition was to travel throughout the world.
In 2001 Cyril headed off with his girlfriend, Catherina, on a world trip.
They travelled throughout
North Africa and Asia. Cyril was fascinated by India and developed
a great love of India and the Indian people. When he eventually returned
to Ireland he vowed to go back to India again to see and experience as
much of it as possible. He began to meticulously plan his
next trip while he worked away in Baldoyle. As part of his preparations
Cyril undertook an English teaching course. His intention was to
conclude his travels in Thailand and to seek employment teaching English.
Knowing that he was entitled to a Thai passport because of his mother,
Lek, Cyril hoped to make Thailand his base in future years. Before
he left Ireland there were a number of parties (for himself) to attend
in Dublin, a chore which he wouldn’t have found very difficult as
he loved a good ‘auld’ session.
In December 2006 Cyril crossed India to the city of Madras where he was joined by another friend, Benen, also from Ireland. They travelled to the beautiful and remote Andaman Islands to explore the tropical reefs by scuba diving and snorkelling. When Cyril and Benen returned to the Indian mainland another of Cyril’s plans was fulfilled when the duo rode out of a Royal Enfield Showroom in Madras on two brand new Enfield motorcycles. Over the coming months the pair travelled throughout India on their motorcycles, getting into numerous scrapes and having adventures some only get to dream about. Cyril often mused that he was “living the dream”.
Throughout his journey Cyril made deep, if short-lived, contact with many people of different race, religion and background, and especially with those on the margins of society. He was very aware of his good fortune coming from a modern western country and could be extremely generous with those less fortunate whom he encountered. He enjoyed coming into contact with the various eastern religions he had read about before his travels.
After the wedding Cyril went up to Bangkok to try and get a teaching job. With the aid of his teaching qualification he was to get a job teaching English to children at Trimitvitthaya School, Klongkvang Pasrijaruan, Bangkok (www.tmv.ac.th). He was following in his ancestors’ footsteps as his paternal grandfather, also called Cyril, was a primary school teacher - as was Cyril’s paternal great-grandmother. What followed was one of the happiest times in Cyril’s life. He loved teaching and was very fond of his young pupils, who also loved him very much in return.
“I’m now an English teacher working in a private school and I have to say I absolutely love it. I wake every morning, drive to work while passing Temples and Monks only to arrive at my school and see a lot of bright eyed kids smiling and excited to start a new day of fun”. I love children, they cushion my brain…they certainly breathe new life into me”.
Cyril, as was his nature, got on very well with his colleagues in the school. He was particularly proud of his Thai background and always stood with his Thai colleagues and Thai children for the Thai National Anthem each morning. He was joined in Bangkok by his Portmarnock friend, Brian Kenny, who also got a job teaching English in another school in Bangkok. Brian and Cyril lived in the same apartment block in Bangkok and they met almost every day where, amongst other things, they discussed opening an English School together in Bangkok when Cyril would take up a Thai passport. The friendship between the Irish and the Thairish man grew even stronger during their days in Bangkok together. Cyril got on well with Geeab, one of the teachers at the school, and they started to go out together. Geeab was especially kind to Cyril and she helped him with his teaching skills.
Cyril and his girlfriend, Jeab - a recent photo taken in Thailand.
In December 2007 Cyril’s Sister Pamela came over from Australia and they celebrated Christmas and New Year together in Bangkok.
Later in the year, Cyril returned to Dublin for Genevieve’s wedding to Simon on the 3rd of April 2008. Cyril very much enjoyed the wedding and, of course, everyone enjoyed having him back in Dublin. He was in great form. He had put on a bit of weight, but that did not in any way curtail his exuberant spirit or his ability to have fun. He also renewed his contacts with all his Irish friends and old friendships were renewed as if Cyril had never left Ireland. He disappeared to Westmeath for a time to help his good friend Liamo down on his farm - Cyril loved the idea of being a farmer for a day, “good honest-to-be-jaysis work”, and was particularly chuffed at getting to drive the tractor. After a series of parties in Dublin - the most notable being the one given by Les and his former fellow workers in Baldoyle - Cyril returned to his job teaching in Thailand.
Returning to Bangkok, Cyril was determined to lose weight. He joined a local gym and started a strict regime and diet to ensure he got back into shape. Cyril was looking forward to his parents visiting him in the Autumn. Lek had arranged to renew her Thai Passport so that Cyril could then get dual citizenship and the Thai Passport he always wanted.
On Friday the 6th of June Cyril joined his friends after work as usual and they went out for a night on the town. In the early hours of the 7th of June, whilst partying with his friends, Cyril had a massive and unexpected heart attack which unfortunately resulted in his immediate and tragic death.
for the last time…
On the 14th of June after a mass in the local church, where he was christened many years before, he was buried in the official Fingal Cemetery nearby. As befits a wonderful boy like Cyril, who was open to many cultures, religions and people of different backgrounds, all the major religions of the world said prayers for the repose of his wonderful soul and spirit. As well as his funeral mass in the Catholic Church in Portmarnock, prayers were said for him by Buddhist Monks in Thailand and in the Muslim Temple in Bangkok. A Jewish friend of the family arranged for prayers to be said for Cyril in the Synagogue in Dublin.
Cyril had a great love of Varanasi, the city on the sacred river Ganges which he had visited on many occasions. The following is an extract from an e-mail which Cyril sent to his friend Richard Power on 22nd September 2006 about meeting up in Varanasi.
“I can’t believe we are going to meet up in one of the most radical places in the world. It’s as if the universe conspired to make this happen. Richard this is destiny………you know how our minds are, we are about to meet up in “The City of eternal Light” the city of eternal learning and knowledge. When we meet up we must go for a walk along the Ganges “…
Cyril’s friend, Brian Kenny, returned to Bangkok after the funeral by way of India. He went to Varanasi where he arranged a special religious funeral ceremony for Cyril. Whilst hairs from Cyril’s head were thrown into the holy river Ganges, Jainist and Hindu priests and Buddhist monks prayed and had a religious ceremony for the repose of Cyril’s soul and his great spirit. Cyril’s body is buried in the Fingal Cemetery near his parents’ home in North County Dublin.
Cyril left home to go out into the world and the wilderness to meet many people and to have great adventures. Like the Norsemen and Vikings before him, who from time to time went off on adventures to foreign lands and then returned to Fingal after their years abroad, Cyril’s body has come home to that same spot and now remains resting in peace.
Fingal Cemetery lies under a flight path from Dublin Airport. Planes can be seen and heard constantly flying over the grave of this wonderful, beautiful, sensitive, kind and magical boy who will be missed forever by Brian, Lek, Garmon, Genevieve and Pamela and his many, many, friends - not to mention those whose lives he touched briefly in passing. Unfortunately, Cyril will not be taking these planes again.
clock ticked away
On the 29th of June 2008 twenty two days after Cyril’s death, his beloved grandmother Noreen passed away in Galway. She is buried with her late husband Cyril in Kilconnell Cemetery in Co. Galway.
© Cyril Duncan
Siam Children's Foundation