Missing Delco Man Returns

gafferreturns-0001“Gaffer” Haughey is back.

Haughey—his given name is Gareth—disappeared September 27 from his room at the Summit Motel on Township Line in Upper Darby. Seamus Meenagh, a local contractor, phoned Haughey at 7 a.m. to offer him work for the day. Haughey said he wasn’t available.

And that was the last anyone heard of the well-known part-time laborer from Armagh—until Wednesday afternoon at about 4.

“He phoned his friend, Seamus, who had initially informed me he was missing,” says Siobhan Lyons, executive director of the Irish Immigration Center of Philadelphia. “Gaffer said he was with a friend that he sometimes stays with. We don’t have a lot of details.”

Not long after that call, Haughey showed up at the center. Lyons called off the search, and quickly disseminated the good news via social media.

“We got the word out almost as soon as we found out,” Lyons says. “He wanted everyone to stop worrying.”

“Worried” doesn’t half describe the fear and concern that swept through Delaware County’s Irish community as the days stretched into weeks. Tuesday night, more than a dozen of Gaffer’s friends and acquaintances met at the Immigration Center to devise a plan to find him. That plan called for a massive sweep of the Cobbs Creek Golf Club this Saturday afternoon. The club is not far from the Summit, and it’s a place where Haughey has been known to hang out.

If that was where Haughey was, those concerns were well-placed. Cobbs Creek Golf Course, owned by the city of Philadelphia, can be a chancy place. Long overdue renovations are in the works, but the shabby course has a well-known and unsavory history. A recent news story compared Cobbs Creek to the world-class Merion Golf Club. Merion is just five miles distant, but worlds away. The comparison wasn’t flattering:

Merion has hosted five U.S. Opens. Cobbs Creek has a fallen tree on the fourth tee box which has been there for two months. Merion has mansions lining its outer edges. Cobbs Creek has local homeless occasionally sleeping on its greens. At Merion, you can run into the who’s who of the city. At Cobbs Creek, you can sometimes get propositioned by a prostitute.

Cobbs Creek is a place where anything can happen—and often does. Ten days before Haughey vanished, someone trying to retrieve golf balls from the creek found something else—something exceptionally disturbing. It was a decomposing body floating in the rippling waters next to the golf course.
Last Wednesday, a walker discovered another body, this one in Cobbs Creek Park, three miles away from the golf course. The news sparked widespread speculation in the Irish community that the body might be that of Gareth Haughey. As word spread, Lyons fielded countless text messages and phone calls, all with the same question: “Is it Gaffer?” they asked. The answer, without question: No. Still, the rumor mill was working overtime. Many people continued to assume the worst.

It wasn’t unlike Haughey to go missing. It has happened in the past. But this was the longest he’d ever stayed away without notifying the people closest to him. After the meeting, Shannon Rice—another contractor friend—described Haughey’s prolonged absence as “really scary.”

“He’d at least call somebody,” Rice said at the time. “He might go away for two or three days, but he’d always call.”

Now that Haughey is back, all those fears have been set aside.

“Gaffer was a little bit overwhelmed by the number of people who cared about him. He really has great friends. People are just delighted. We got a lot of phone calls, e-mails, and text messages. Literally thousands of people found out about this,” Lyons says. “At the same time, she laughs, “they’re also lining to slap him for being so much trouble. But it’s nice to have a happy ending.”

Author: Jeff Meade

Jeff is one of the founding editors of irishphiladelphia.com. More details.

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