Monday, May 30, 2011

A very fine man, indeed: Francis 'Frank' Magee 1902-1974

Francis 'Frank' Magee

When I sat down to write about my paternal granduncle Frank Magee, I felt a little troubled because I want to do his family proud in telling you about him. When I visited with the Magees in Dublin in August of 2010, one thing became abundantly clear to me. Francis 'Frank' Magee was a man who was not only loved by his children and grandchildren, but also greatly respected by them.

Frank Magee was a 20th century hero, but not in the ordinary sense of the word. There are neither war stories about him with which to regale you, nor a caché of special medals to review. Frank Magee is a hero in what I think is the most important sense, as a husband, father, and grandfather, one of those who is rarely celebrated, but should be. He was a hero to his family and to his community, to his beloved wife Mary, to his fourteen children, to his 47 grandchildren, and as a worker and foreman at Jameson Distillery.

Francis 'Frank' Magee was born in Dublin Ireland 16 December 1902, the third born (brothers Patrick William 1898-1900 and Michael Francis 1896-1921) of my paternal great-grandparents, Patrick Magee and Mary Dunne Magee. In September of 1928 Frank and his wife Mary (nee Maher) were married in Aughrim Street Church of the Holy Family in Stoneybatter, Dublin. Frank followed his father Patrick, and elder brother Michael, into the profession of scriber at Jameson Distillery. Frank Magee quickly rose up through the ranks at Jameson, and eventually became a foreman. As part of his responsibilities he had to always be near the Jameson compound and so he moved his family into the huge house on North Ann Street which was part of the Jameson property.
Mary Magee nee Maher

Frank and his wife Mary loved the big house and filled it with family and friends. My mother recalls the very first time she went to meet Uncle Frank. She felt overwhelmed by the sheer size of the six story house, and truth be told, somewhat intimidated by the stature of the man she was meeting. My mom remembers him as a man who very clearly had the respect of all members of his family. She recalls that everyone had to stand behind their chairs at a massive table before Uncle Frank indicated that they might all sit down to dine. I imagine that running the household in an ordered way was the only way to rule a roost with 14 children. Although his children recall him as a man who required great discipline, they also remember a lot of love and laughter in their home.

Frank and Mary Magee

Some of his children recall going around the Jameson Distillery property with their father at the end of the business day when he checked to make certain everything was locked up and that all was as it should be. What a wonderful thing to remember sharing such a time with your father. They spoke of climbing up the many stairs in the facility, making their way close to the tops of the huge distilling vats, and of the huge water container which resembled a giant swimming pool.

One of his daughters told me that although her father was strict, a necessity for keeping fourteen children in line, he had a gentle side as well. If there was a time when he had to discipline them for misbehaviour, afterward, at night when the children were in bed, he would pop his head into their rooms and, not knowing whether they were awake or asleep, he would softly whisper that he was sorry they'd had a disagreement that day.

Frank Magee also had a very positive influence on my father. My dad had many fond memories of childhood holidays spent in Rush with his Uncle Frank, Aunt Mary, Aunt Mollie, and Uncle Willie. Dad also remembered his uncle as a man with an excellent work ethic which my father sought to emulate as he grew into a man. When our family returned home to Ireland for the first time, I remember my father was very excited about going to Ballyfermot to have a visit with Uncle Frank, and to introduce my brother and me to him. Of that visit I recall the sheer joy that was there between my father and his uncle when they greeted each other. It brought tears to my thirteen year old eyes.

Francis 'Frank' Magee died 6 December, 1974 and is interred along with his wife Mary at Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin, Ireland. Their children and grandchildren visit their grave often.

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Cheers, Jennifer

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