Lives Lost to Covid-19: Vincent Buckley – a family man above all else
Vincent was CIÉ’s financial controller before working with the World Bank in Uganda
Lives Lost: Vincent Buckley from Cork, 1926-2020.
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Vincent Buckley was endlessly fascinated by the world around him. He used to marvel at how he was born just years after the Wright brothers took off from an American field of dreams and lived to see man land on the moon.
He loved how, ahead of his first journey as a small child from his Cork home to an uncle’s farm 27km away, his father had to write a letter two weeks in advance to arrange a horse and cart to pick them up from the train station, while he could talk to his own grandson on a San Diego train on his mobile phone and could travel the world, most recently to Morocco in early 2020.
But, above all else, what mattered to him was family.
At 17, Vincent applied for the CIÉ exams in Dublin. He did so because he heard it would involve a free trip to the capital, a place he had never been. So he sent off his application and got his free trip which led to a job in the accounts department of the company. He was transferred to Cork and met Maureen on a train as it pulled away from Mallow station.
He and Maureen married in 1958 and had four children.
While the couple were living in Cork, he went to University College Cork at night and studied accountancy, eventually relocating back to Dublin and climbing the corporate ladder to become the financial controller of CIÉ. He used to sometimes reflect that it would have been much easier to have been in charge of the coffers of a profitable company.
His promotions were helped by his capacity for innovative thinking, not least during the bank strike of the 1970s. With the banks closed for weeks, coins were in desperately short supply so thousands of customers had no way to pay their fares. Rather than penalising people or refusing to allow them to travel, CIÉ, on Vincent’s suggestion, withdrew one million pounds in coinage which it distributed in the form of small loans to shops which, in turn, passed it on to CIÉ customers who used it as fares.
“The CIÉ got back 99.8 per cent of what they gave out and after that he was promoted,” his son Eamon says.
In the early 1990s, Vincent took early retirement so he could care for Maureen, who had developed Alzheimer’s disease. For a year he was able to work on a consultancy basis with the World Bank, a role which took him to Washington DC and to Uganda where he acted as an adviser for the Ugandan rail company.
But as Maureen’s illness progressed, she needed full-time care so he devoted himself full-time to the role until she passed away in 1997.
His family feared he would become “a recluse, having lost contact with his social circle”, Eamon says.
Instead, he did the opposite. “He was so disciplined about it,” his son recalls. “He joined clubs and met people.” He also set up a branch of Probus, the Rotary club affiliate for retired professionals, in his home town of Sutton, and used to walk with friends in the Dublin mountains and along the Grand Canal up to 10km at a time.
“He valued honesty and straightforwardness and liked the people around him to be affable. He once said that while some people change very much as they aged, the only thing that changed about him was the colour of his hair,” says Eamon.
He loved going to Mass although he “was never entirely sure if it was because of his faith or because he liked meeting people for a chat. He loved watching his grandchildren growing up and he said his proudest achievement in his life was that he and Maureen reared ‘four decent people and we did our best for them’.”
Over recent years, Vincent’s energy levels rarely dipped and each year he took overseas holidays with friends. He travelled to North Africa in late February and soon after his return was diagnosed with Covid-19. He died in the first wave of the pandemic in March 2020.