Castlehill/Dooriel, Ballycroy, Westport
As most of you know, Francis was born in Ballycroy on 30th June, 1951, left Ireland’s shores in 1970 and then came back to Ballycroy in the early 1990s to live, settle down, rear a family and then he left this world last Sunday, too soon for all of us here. He was predeceased by his mum and dad.
Like his son Francis James, Francis was an only son to parents Mary McGuire and Jim Ginty, his mother passing away in 2002 and his father pre-deceasing her 42 years earlier in 1960, when Francis was only nine years young. He saw his cousins as his siblings, whom he was very close to, as well as his uncle Felix, whom he was very fond of too and who said their goodbyes in the hospital last week. Unfortunately, Felix cannot be here today.
In his growing up years up to the age of nine, he was reared in two villages, Dooriel and Castlehill, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, where his grandparents and parents lived respectively. He returned to permanently live with his mother in Castlehill and to work on the family farm, when his father passed away.
He completed national school in Drumslide and worked on the family farm for five years until he was 19, after which he went to the UK, learning many trades in Stockton-on-Tees, Preston and Nottingham building great friendships with such great people as Seamus Cafferkey, Hugh Corrigan, Pat Ginty, Michael Finn, and of course, his uncles Tony Ginty and Bernard McGuire. For Francis, working in the UK was like a home from home. He spent over two years working there. Upon returning to Ireland, he joined Sisk Construction in Dublin, a reputable and renowned building contractor and spent five years there with his neighbour Seamus Cafferkey. During his time in Dublin, he also worked on a development with JP Campbell in Talbot Street, where I know that many fond memories were developed. In 1977, he returned to Ballycroy, where he worked for Brogan Construction in Bangor.
He was a great tradesman, gifted craftsman, who could literally turn his hand to anything. Whether it be an electrical, plumbing, carpentry, building or mechanical job or task, he could do it and do it well too! In fact, many of the houses and homes here and around Ballycroy have Francis’s imprint somewhere.
He joined the local FÁS Scheme in 2005 and spent 10 yeas there, becoming affectionately known as ‘The Captain’. He worked on many projects in FÁS, putting in footpaths, street lights, Christmas lights, helping at the festivals, events in the community centre and St Patrick’s Day parade, maintaining lawns, Mayo County Council Litter League, flower beds, and on occasion, helped out in the kitchen and with Meals-on-Wheels. He also worked on high profile projects like the ‘Pride of Place Competition’ and RTÉ’s ‘Community Challenge’ putting in the playground here in the village.
He helped build Drumgallagh National School in 1986 under the supervision of Chris Masterson. He was also involved in the restoration work of the old, unique church on Inishbiggle Island (dated 1880), under the supervision of Breege Grealis. This church was one of the few churches in Ireland used for all denominations. Inishbiggle Island was very close to Francis’s heart. He loved going there, especially for FÁS’s employee get-togethers in the old school.
Though he had no formal second or third-level education, Francis was a hardworking, sensible and intelligent man, who had a huge interest in politics, national affairs and world affairs; all developed from his love of listening to radio, watching TV and being an avid reader of books and papers (The Irish Times). From self-taught trait, he could talk to anyone about anything. I was reminded of a story about an article that he read on ‘polygamy’ and the man in question got several years in jail for the crime. Many of the men at the table listening to him were discussing the many advantages of having numerous wives. Francis, however, was quietly contemplating all of their opinions and suddenly pronounced “one wife was more than sufficient for anyone, especially when you have to face them after a few pints”!
Home and family were always important to him and he could not have wished for anything more but to return to Dooriel and Castlehill. Ballycroy was always his home and the farm and land were always close to his heart; it defined him, and it is here where he spent the remaining years of his life managing a very successful tillage farm for his family, right to the path of what were now know as Fáilte Ireland’s – The Wild Atlantic Way. He was a man from the land and a man of the land!
A devoted follower of Mayo football, going to every club match and never missing Mayo when they played in the League and Championship were he stayed with John and Marion Farrell in Dublin for the Croke Park spectacles. He played football with Ballycroy GAA Club in his youth. He was only in the world three months when Mayo won their last All-Ireland in 1951, 67 years ago. How he would have loved to have witnessed one more, like us all! As well as GAA, he enjoyed Christy Moore and listening to Irish traditional and country and western music.
Though he knew the love of his life Ellen very well, growing up with her in Dooriel; they started dating in their teens and it took him almost 20 yeas to pop the question. You were very patient Ellen! Marrying in June 1993, they celebrated their Silver Wedding Anniversary this year, a total of 44 yeas together. However, I know the happiest memory of their lives was the birth of their son Francis James in 1998. After he was born, they lived with Francis’s mother in Castlehill for a number of years, until her passing with great memories made and cherished. You dad was very proud of your Francis James and your achievements in the Leaving Certificate and pursuing Third Level education through quantity surveying, a similar career to your dad with the piece of paper. Francis James; you now miss your dad just as much as he missed his mum when he was eight years old. He was so proud of you and your mother, he loved you both dearly.
Francis was a religious man and such a healthy man too, standing 6’2’’, who was very aware of the consequences of his short illness and what was ahead of him when he was diagnosed in July this year. So accepting of his illness, I believe he never once complained, not wanting to be a burden to anyone. Not many of us would be able to do that.
My memories of him are many from working on his mother’s farm on the horse and cart to being his best man at his and Ellen’s wedding.
However, one particular memory is when myself and the McGuire sibling Thomas, Niall, Bernard (now deceased) and Maureen (all summer holiday cousins from Stockton-on-Tees) went out onto the island off Castlehill and ended up stranded. We were only around 10 years young at the time. Before we knew it the tide came in and completely surrounded us. There was no one to call. Francis went out to fetch us for a bite to eat and heard us shouting. He shouted back telling us to stay on the island and not to swim to shore. He ran home huffing and puffing to tell them where we were. They immediately contacted the Emergency Services, who came and literally saved our lives, as the tide was rising quickly. The incident was a big deal at the time with the whole parish knowing about what happened and what could have happened. That day, I believe, he saved our lives!
Francis, as Ellen and Francis James grieve for you today, they know they have learned so much from you. They wil miss your presence around them so much and how you enriched their lives immensely. Continue to look after them and watch over them always.
Your mum and dad are waiting for you in heaven, ready to welcome and embrace you again, go to them now and until we meet again. Rest in peace.
Francis is deeply mourned and sadly missed by his loving wife Ellen, son Francis James, uncle Felix, sisters-in-law, nieces-in-law, nephews-in-law, cousins and many friends.
Let my name be the household word that it always was.
Let it be spoken without effort.
Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same as it ever was,
there is absolutely
Why should I be out
of your mind because
I am out of your sight?
I am but waiting for you,
for an interval,
somewhere very near
just around the corner.