Francie McCarron (picture: Northern Standard)

Francie McCarron (picture: Northern Standard)

OBITUARY: FRANCIE MCCARRON             Old Cross Square, Monaghan             Northern Standard Feb.14th 2013

A politician who was dedicated to the service of the local community. Those qualities of Francie were apparent to all who knew him. He died at Cavan hospital on February 5th, a few hours short of his 87th birthday. Francie was the last of a family steeped in Monaghan politics for three generations, covering almost 100 years: his grandfather, his father Andy and himself.

Francie was born on 6th February1927, the son of Andrew (died June 1964) and Mary Catherine (died October 1944) of 17 Old Cross Square. He was their youngest child. The eldest, Anne, died aged 7 of a measles related illness in 1924. Billy died in 1996, and Andy in 1988. Another brother Jimmy emigrated to the United States and died there. He was represented at the funeral by his children Mary and Andy from San Francisco.

In his later years Francie would be a familiar figure as he walked around the town or sat on the bench at the entrance to the Pound Hill, watching all the comings and goings and chatting to passers-by. But he succumbed to poor health by which his sparkle and wit was dimmed by dementia. He was admitted to Blackwater House where he received excellent care.

Francie was always prepared to take on a cause if he believed in it. When Bishop Duffy reordered the McCarthy-designed interior of St Macartan’s Cathedral in line with liturgical recommendations of Vatican II, this forthright councillor took strong exception to the way fittings such as the altar, the reredos (screen) and the pulpit were being removed. In response, he urged a boycott of the Sunday collections at Mass.

The work went ahead and in a final twist to the story, it was at the Cathedral that the remains of Francie were received on Friday evening. The Cathaoirleach Cllr Seamus Treanor, Cllr Seán Conlon and Town Clerk Marie Deighan along with one of her predecessors Paudge McKenna were among the mourners. Former councillors including Lorcan Ronaghan were also in attendance, along with Caoimghin Ó Caolain TD, former TD Seymour Crawford, Cllr Paudge Connolly and other local representatives.

The Mayor of Co. Monaghan Councillor Hugh McElvaney attended the funeral Mass, along with many former colleagues and friends of Francie as well as his relatives. In his homily, Fr John Chester said Francie’s political career as an independent councillor had been marked by his dedication to the elderly population of Monaghan: the hours he spent with people in their homes doing small electrical jobs, explaining and writing out forms, and telling people about their rights. Fr Chester said Francie, who worked for the ESB and served for a time as UDC Chair, had been passionate about the retention of Monaghan General Hospital as far back as the 1970’s. He had warned that its scaling down or closure could happen much sooner than they thought. He was ahead of his time.

Fr Chester referred to an old copy of the Northern Standard from the ‘70s which he had found under an old carpet in the Priests’ House. Fears about the possible closure of the hospital were expressed on the front page. The hospital finally lost its general status and was scaled down to a set-down unit around 2007, unit realising Francie’s fears.

Charles J Haughey, when he spoke for the last time in Leinster House on the occasion of his resignation, said about himself, “he served the people, all the people, to the best of his ability.” Francie was deserving of the same accolade, in Fr Chester’s view.

Then there was the other side of Francie: he could also irritate. One person’s cause is sometimes another person’s irritation. Fr Chester said he discovered that 25 years ago, soon after his ordination and appointment to Monaghan town. In a confrontation that was featured on RTÉ News, Francie took on the then Cathedral Administrator  Fr. Sean Nolan over work being done in the Old Grave Yard at Lathlurcan. But it was perhaps better to let sleeping dogs lie, Fr Chester added. It was in the same graveyard that Francie’s remains were laid to rest alongside other family members, following the Mass.

Problems about the reception of RTÉ television in Monaghan town were one of the many local causes Francie took up on behalf of the public. Other elements featuring in his long life that were spoken about by his nieces and nephews included his creative side: sketching, drawing and cartoons. Sometimes he drew a cartoon when discussions at Town Council sittings reached an impasse. He would see the funny side of things and expressed the humour in cartoon form.

Francie loved to be photographed and was not at all camera shy. He was good with timber and electrical engineering. Fr Chester said he had learned that he used to make boats with his father and that an unfinished boat still sits in the shed since 1964, the year his father died.

Francie was the first man in the town to own a television set and people from the Square would call in to watch it. They also gathered to an open front window at no. 17 to listen to the radio; football matches, other important events and news items. He could also wire the radio to pick up signals in New York. He was athletic, loved to cycle with Dr. O’Gorman and he also loved to play golf.  One story, which was only mentioned afterwards, was that on a visit to England with his brother, their code of dress on the golf course (trousers tucked into their socks) did not go down too well with some lady members at a club outside London and they were ticked off!

Francie enjoyed the company of family, including his brother James in San Francisco, where he had nieces and nephews. He travelled also to Spain and annually to Lourdes. Francie liked poetry and it was appropriate that in conclusion Fr Chester referred to Patrick Kavanagh’s poem “Epic”, which is about the significance of local events being more important than national or international happenings:-

I have lived in important places, times
When great events were decided……..

I inclined
To lose my faith in Ballyrush and Gortin
Till Homer’s ghost came whispering to my mind.
He said: I made the Iliad from such
A local row. Gods make their own importance”.

[Extract from Collected Poems, Penguin 2005]


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