Adèle Mac Avock obituary: Taught French to generations of public servants and politicians

France recognised her commitment to its language with a Palmes Academiques award in 1987

Adèle Mac Avock: her students included everyone from clerical assistants to first secretaries of government departments

Adèle Mac Avock: her students included everyone from clerical assistants to first secretaries of government departments


Adèle Mac Avock (nee Brady)

Born June 30th, 1928

Died April 6th, 2019

Adèle Mac Avock, who has died aged 91, was a highly-regarded teacher of French to thousands of Irish civil servants and politicians.

A lifelong Francophile, Mac Avock was headhunted from her job teaching Irish and French in Dublin’s Alexandra College to become the director of French language training in the Irish Civil Service in the 1960s as Ireland prepared for entry to the European Economic Community [now the European Union].

In this new role, Mac Avock placed great emphasis on spoken French, aware that civil servants and politicians would need these oral and aural skills as Ireland developed international relations. She also pioneered the use of audio recordings of her French friends so her students could familiarise themselves with native French accents.

Her students included everyone from clerical assistants to first secretaries of government departments. President Patrick Hillery, ministers and politicians from every party all had individual tuition with Mac Avock. She also taught French to candidates for posts in the EEC, staff at RTÉ and telephonists in the post office who needed French to communicate on international telephone exchanges.

Iveagh House

A soiree Francaise was held on the first Monday of each month in the Department of Foreign Affairs at Iveagh House to give learners the opportunity to converse in an informal setting.

It was at one of these evenings that Mac Avock met her future husband, Desmond Mac Avock, who had only recently moved from Ballina to Dublin to set up the Modern Languages Bookshop on Westland Row. The couple were married in Paris in September 1966.

The family lived in Westland Row in the early years of their marriage, moving to Wellington Road in 1969 with their children, Peter and Jane. Desmond Mac Avock, who worked as an art and drama critic for various publications including The Irish Times, was an active member of the Upper Leeson Street Area Residents Association – which campaigned against office developments in that part of Georgian Dublin.

Great hosts

The Mac Avocks enjoyed Dublin’s cultural life to the full, attending first nights of new plays and art exhibitions openings. They were also great hosts, entertaining French diplomats, Irish artists and their many friends and neighbours. The family also spent many happy times in their house on the shores of Lough Conn outside Ballina.

Mac Avock continued to teach French at the Civil Service Language Training Centre until 1993.

The youngest of four children of senior civil servant Peter Brady and Agnes Shaw, she grew up in Proby Square, Blackrock. She followed her sisters, Margot and Joan, to become a boarder in St Louis secondary school , Co Monaghan. Mac Avock studied French and Irish at Trinity College Dublin in the late 1940s and, following her graduation, she spent a year at the Sorbonne in Paris. On her return to Dublin, she joined the staff of Clogher Road vocational school in Crumlin but moved the following year to teach Irish and French in Alexandra College, in Milltown.

French award

Her passion and commitment to the French language and culture was recognised by the French government when she was awarded the Chevalier grade of the Palmes Academiques in 1987.

Adèle Mac Avock is survived by her daughter Jane, her son Peter, his wife Tonya and their children Katie, Jack and Nora. Her husband, Desmond, pre-deceased her in 2013.