Father-of-four Fran Johnston was a true Dub, known for his wit and devotion to his family.
The embodiment of "Dad's taxi", the former Eircom technician gave much of his spare time to ferrying his two sons and two daughters to and from their home in Palmerstown to school, work, nights out, concerts and the airport.
“Driving was almost like a hobby for him,” says daughter Melissa.
“He had a licence for anything you could drive – cars, trucks, cranes. He even did helicopter lessons about 15 years ago.
“He was like a taxi driver to us, he used to drive us and our friends everywhere. And he was a bit of a messer, he’d always be slagging off our friends in the car.”
On those countless lifts, Fran gifted his children fond memories of growing up in Ballyfermot, where he met his childhood sweetheart and later wife, Elizabeth.
Passing his old school, he would detail the currant cakes and cold milk they feasted on, or by the site of a former orchard he would recall bringing apples back to his mam to bake tarts.
Born on Landen Road in 1952, Fran was the second-youngest of four brothers and two sisters. Football was a passion from an early age and he had a multitude of medals and trophies from his time playing for Landen United.
“But they were never on display – that was the mark of the man,” says his son Glenn.
Near neighbours who hung out together, Fran was 18 and Elizabeth 16 when they got engaged. Three years later, in 1974, they married and bought their lifelong home together in Woodfarm in Palmerstown. Afterwards, Glenn, Amy, Melissa and Nathan were born.
For 30 years, he repaired phone lines for Eircom. A small bunch of close friends at the telecoms company were like another “little family” for Fran, and they remained so even after his retirement aged 60, always visiting each other’s houses for the children’s birthday parties and other get-togethers.
Manchester United, Dublin GAA, music and film (the Lord of the Rings trilogy was a favourite) were other passions, but all were eclipsed by his first grandson Liam when he was born in 2018.
“Is the young fella coming down? That was Dad’s catchphrase,” says Melissa.
And when he was, Fran would be standing in the front garden waiting to see him or, growing impatient, crossing the road to see if there was any sign of his grandson’s arrival.
When the children were younger, the family would set off to Trabolgan or Mosney in the summer. In later years, there were trips to Spain and Portugal, as well as Florida in 2002. Fran and Elizabeth also took themselves to Egypt and the Netherlands.
On one return trip from Amsterdam, the couple sparked a minor security scare at the airport when staff noticed Elizabeth’s luggage was ticking.
It was, in fact, a wooden clock she had bought on their holiday, and Fran managed to defuse tensions with his lighthearted humour.
“He was a gentleman, a quiet man, he had great wit and he was a true Dub,” says Melissa.
At his funeral at Ballyfermot’s Church of Our Lady of the Assumption, in his childhood neighbourhood and where Fran made his First Holy Communion and Confirmation, Glenn said his father “was always there for us no matter what”.
“I’ve heard it said the point of life is to die young at an old age,” he added. “Fran remained young at heart. He was funny, loving, witty, kind – everything you would want in a husband, father, brother, grandfather and friend.”