Westport, Co Mayo
Born on September 7, 1952 to the late Máire Hughes (née Kelly) from Louisburgh and Westport and Pádraig Hughes, Lankill and Westport, Seamus Hughes was the third eldest of their family of thirteen. Best known today as a District Court Judge, he is also remembered for his role as a Fianna Fáil TD, Mayo State Solicitor and his original occupation as a solicitor in Westport, Co Mayo.
Raised in Westport, he attended St Patrick’s National School, then went on to St Jarlath’s College, Tuam (1965-1970) and finally to University College Dublin where he qualified in Law in 1975. His formative years outside of education were spent working alongside his siblings in their parents’ nascent business of Carraig Donn, known for its original manufacture of hand-sewn Irish Tweed footrests and later Irish Knitwear & Craft, working in their shops in Westport and the Aran Islands during his student years.
A natural athlete in his younger years, Seamus embraced his talents and channelled his love for sport into helping found Westport Athletics Club, of which he became Chairman of for a time. His abilities also allowed him, along with his seven brothers, to claim an honour in the Guinness Book of Records in 1984 after their participation in the Dublin City Marathon. His competitive nature followed him into the legal and political worlds, where he would tirelessly represent his clients and community, working exceptionally hard campaigning on their behalf. His love of the community and homeland saw him once crowned ‘High King of Connacht’ for his creative fundraising events, raising £50,000 for the Western Care Association in 1984.
His early professional career began in Mullingar as a solicitor for Nooney and Dowdall (1975-1978) where he met his wife, Maria. Returning to Westport in 1978 he established his own legal practice, while later also going on to become more involved in local politics when he was co-opted onto Westport Urban District Council in 1984. He was elected to Mayo County Council in 1985 and retired in 1999. For some of this period (1992-1997) he held a dual mandate having been elected for the constituency of West Mayo to the 27th Dáil as a Fianna Fáil TD in the General Election of 1992, his term ending in 1997.
From his political career, he was best known for successfully lobbying for the extension of the national primary route, the N5, to Westport. Twenty-five years later the €200 million completion of the project from Castlebar to Westport is at an advanced stage. Another important project for Seamus was the establishment of the 15,000 acre Ballycroy National Park, which was opened in 1998 and is now known as Wild Nephin National Park. Aside from his involvement in larger campaigns and projects, his family are especially proud of the work he did on behalf of individuals and families in his community. It touches their heart, when as an example, one of their sons was approached in Australia by a man who hails from Mayo who told him of the assistance his father Seamus provided his mother in her time of need and how ‘she never would forget it’.
Seamus was appointed as State Solicitor for Mayo in 2001 and finally as District Court Judge in 2009, first in Donegal and later the Midlands. It was during his tenure in Donegal that ‘Judge Hughes’ ordered a defendant to climb Croagh Patrick and complete four stations of the famous Mayo pilgrimage as a mark of respect for his fellow Irish people, especially those in the line of duty. That defendant later went on to raise money which was donated to a Hospice and Mental Health Service while also providing photos of him, his wife and 12 of their friends at the summit as evidence. Those close to Seamus get great pleasure in this story knowing that he particularly cherished light-hearted and memorable outcomes like these as they were the silver-lining to a professional career in the judicial system.
At home in Westport, Seamus was happy occupying his time on hobbies like growing organic vegetables and herbs, fishing for a few mackerel, walking his dog and catching up with the regulars at Christy’s Harvest cafe. He was always interested in hearing about the developments around the area and the stories of various individuals, their families and businesses who were overcoming their own adversities or reaping the well-deserved rewards of their efforts. Westport was good to him, and he always felt grateful and proud of being from such a great town.
Seamus will be deeply mourned by his wife Maria (Gavigan); his sons, Colin (41) and Emmet (39); his daughter, Sarah Milford Scott (35); and Donal (31); as well as his grand-daughter Saoirse Milford Scott.
He is sadly missed by his sisters, Anne McGovern, Marion Cassidy, Cathy Hughes, Orla O’Carroll and Eleanor Moran. His brothers Cathal, Patrick (twin), Harry, Owen, Richard, Vincent and Declan. He is also remembered by his 44 nephews and nieces, sisters-in-law, brothers-in-law, aunts and uncle-in-laws, his son-in-law Hugo and daughter-in-law (to-be) Emma. Seamus passed away on Tuesday, July 12. We wish him well on his return journey.