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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I passed the GAA Club (St Macartan’s) at Augher on the main Ballygawley to Clogher road twice this evening (Tuesday) so my thoughts were with the Hackett family and their friends and neighbours……

More details have emerged about the death last Friday evening of Wishie (Aloysius) Hackett, a leading member of St Macartan’s GAA Club, who was found dead at his home at Aghindarragh Road near Augher in County Tyrone. His 18 year-old son Sean, a former Tyrone minor footballer, has been remanded in custody charged with murdering his father, aged 60. Omagh magistrates court heard that Sean Hackett initially told police he had returned home to find his father’s body. He later said he had shot him, the court heard. He was granted compassionate bail to attend his father’s funeral at noon on Wednesday at St Macartan’s church, Springtown Road, Ballynagurragh near Augher.

St MacCartan's church, Augher

St Macartan’s church, Augher  © M.Fisher

The BBC reports that “Omagh Magistrate’s Court heard Mr Hackett was being treated for depression and had asked a friend to obtain a gun for him twice in the last two months. The compassionate bail for Wednesday’s funeral has been granted under strict conditions. Mr Hackett is not allowed access to a mobile phone or to the internet while travelling to and from the funeral and is only permitted to speak to two chaperones, including a solicitor and the (Tyrone) GAA manager Mickey Harte. He is not allowed to speak to immediate family members. Sean Hackett, who was arrested shortly after the incident, did not look at his family during the hearing. His mother, two brothers and sister were in court for the hearing along with a large number of supporters who waved to the teenager as he left the dock. His mother was distraught throughout and broke down fully when bail was refused and compassionate bail granted”.

The Public Prosecution Service appealed the decision to grant compassionate bail at the High Court. Refusing the appeal, a judge directed that the accused’s two chaperones must collect him from Hydebank Young Offender’s Centre near Belfast, take him to the requiem Mass  in Augher and immediately afterwards return him to custody. Meanwhile, a 17-year-old youth arrested on Sunday in connection with Mr Hackett’s death has been released pending a report to the PPS.


Funeral of Maedhbh Ní Chonmhídhe-Piskorska

Funeral of Maedhbh Ní Chonmhídhe-Piskorska

Funeral of Maedhbh Ní Chonmhídhe-Piskorska

Funeral of Maedhbh Ní Chonmhídhe-Piskorska

Many will fondly remember the television series “Wanderly Wagon” on RTÉ (1967-82). They may not however recall who the executive in charge of childrens’ television was. Maedhbh Ní Chonmhídhe-Piskorska (Maeve Conway-Piskorski) died at her home in Dublin on New Year’s Day after a short illness, aged 83. After becoming head of childrens’ programming in RTÉ she was appointed head of the education department in 1969. As the Irish Times reports, she came from Ballivor in County Meath and received her secondary education at the St Louis Convent, Carrickmacross, Co. Monaghan. She studied at UCD and received an MA in French literature, then joined the Irish Placenames Commission (An Coimisiún Logainmeacha) as a temporary assistant in 1952 along with Ciarán Mac Mathúna, who was also to join Radio Éireann later. After two years in the Commission, she started as a producer in Radio Éireann in 1954. Maeve retired from RTÉ nearly 22 years ago in 1991. She took part in the group Age and Opportunity and belonged to Parlaimint na mBan (womens’ Parliament), which sought to gain recognition for women in the Irish language and cultural movement. She also published two books of writings – including Seanchas na Midhe (Meath lore & history) – by her mother, the teacher and archaeologist Maighréad Ní Chonmhidhe (Margaret Conway, founding editor of Ríocht na Midhe). Copies of the “Seanchas” were brought to Holy Cross Church in Dundrum where Maedhbh’s funeral was held this morning. The book contains a selection of lectures given by Margaret to groups such as the Irish Countrywomens’ Association and Macra na Tuaithe on subjects such as Oliver Goldsmith and the Slane poet-soldier Francis Ledwidge.

Meath Lore

Meath Lore

Former RTÉ editor of religious programmes Fr Dermod McCarthy was a concelebrant. Many retired RTÉ staff were among the mourners, including Mike Burns and Padraig O Gaora, as well as former Directors General George Waters, Bob Collins and Cathal Goan. Pádhraic Ó Ciardha represented TG4. Former NUJ Irish Secretary Jim Eadie and Press Ombudsman John Horgan were also there to say farewell to a person who in different ways made a big contribution to Irish culture both on and off the box. Sympathy goes to her husband Ryszard and son Stefan and the family circle. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam dílis. Maedhbh was buried in her native Ballivor. Her obituary appeared in the Meath Chronicle with a picture of her speaking at the launch of the writings of her mother, “Meath: Towards a History”.

Meadhbh Ní Chonmhídhe-Piskorska

Meadhbh Ní Chonmhídhe-Piskorska


Jim Dougal 1945-2010

He was a kind boss. A gentleman and a gentle man, as John Dunlop described him. Jim Dougal was buried after a requiem Mass at St Brigid’s church, Derryvolgie Avenue in South Belfast. Jim had the distinction of working for all three major broadcasting organisations in Northern Ireland, UTV, BBC and RTÉ, where I knew him for seven years as Northern Editor until he joined BBC in 1991. He battled cancer in recent years and his death at the age of 65 is sad loss for our profession. One of his achievements while at RTÉ was to find a place for unionists to put their case to an audience in the Republic. Former MP Ken Maginnis was among the politicians who attended the Mass. Another was the former SDLP leader John Hume. The fact that a Protestant minister, former Presbyterian Moderator John Dunlop, was chosen to give the address was a sign of how Jim had always done his best to reach across the religious divide. His children gave fine tributes about their Dad at the end of the Mass. Burial took place in Carryduff. To Deirdre and all his relatives, deep sympathy on your loss. May he rest in peace.