Lives Lost to Covid-19: Vincent Fahy made a ‘significant contribution to the State’

The Mayoman began his career with ESB ‘putting the light’ into rural areas

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Vincent Fahy 1928-2021

Vincent Fahy's motto in life was to "listen to people". He believed that if you wanted to get on with people you had to listen to them. This was one of many talents of his, recognised by the ESB, who promoted him to director of personnel in 1979.

He started his career with the power company in the early 1950s, the glory days of rural electrification, the then biggest project in the history of the State.

Initially “putting the light” into rural Wexford, south Kilkenny and east Galway as supervising engineer, Vincent was also involved in the official switching-on ceremonies, usually held in the parish hall as towns and villages “got the light”.

His intelligence and innate decency were well suited to this challenging role and he was widely respected throughout the ESB and larger semi-State community

He then moved to his native Mayo overseeing work in areas from Crossmolina to Belmullet and finishing in Sligo.

He became district engineer in Dundalk in 1966 and regional manager in Cork in 1972 before his move to Dublin as director of personnel where he worked with close friend, industrial relations manager and legendary GAA Dublin manager Kevin Heffernan in an era of tense industrial relations and disputes.

In a tribute his son Dermot and nephew Tom Fahey say he provided life-long service to the State. "His intelligence and innate decency were well suited to this challenging role and he was widely respected throughout the ESB and larger semi-State community for his fairness, insights and impartiality."

But his career did not stop in personnel. In his late 50s Vincent and his wife, Mary, spent four years in the United States with ESBI, the company's international division, working to create opportunities for ESB involvement in large capital projects. Before his retirement he worked for the World Bank in Kiev on the isolation and renewal project after the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster.

The Mayoman was born and raised in Foxford, the second of seven children along with siblings, Sean, Fergus, Mary who died aged 14 from tuberculosis, Eileen, Pat and Brian.

An accomplished pupil and sportsman at Garbally College, Ballinasloe, Vincent came first in Ireland in Leaving Certificate maths and, skilled at rugby, he played outhalf for Connacht.

Equally skilled on the GAA field too, he played for Mayo minors in the late 1940s, who as seniors went on to win the county’s two-in-a-row all-Ireland victories in 1950 and 1951.

Vincent, however, was given an ultimatum because of the ban on non-GAA sports and he opted for rugby.

So by the time of those all-Ireland victories he had graduated as an engineer from University College Dublin (UCD), joined the Imperial British East Africa Company and was working in the Ivory Coast.

He joined the ESB in 1952 on his return to Ireland where he met the love of his life, Mary Killeen, from Taughmaconnell, Co Roscommon. They had six children, Dermot, Deirdre, twins John and Ann, Fiona and Maeve.

The family moved around Ireland, as Vincent's career progressed, before settling in Mount Merrion, Dublin, close to UCD where some of the family studied. Their home was always a focal point for family and friends and the venue for many memorable gatherings.

Vincent and Mary took quiet pride in their children and 15 grandchildren, in their friends and accomplishments. Finishing his speech celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary, Vincent said “the best was yet to come”.

And the couple enjoyed a further 10 happy years, marking their 60th anniversary in the summer of 2016 before Mary’s death that September.

Vincent would not live in their home without Mary and after her death he moved to Rosepark independent residence in Monkstown, Co Dublin. Despite missing his wife terribly, Vincent made the most of his time in his new home, making new friends into his 90s.

In their tribute to Vincent, Dermot and Tom said that "outside of family and work, horse racing was Vincent's great interest in life. In early years he travelled to Cheltenham to visit his brother Sean who had settled as a GP in Birmingham.

"Latterly, he enjoyed memorable days out in Punchestown, the Curragh, Fairyhouse and Leopardstown with his great ESB friends Charlie Dillon and Paddy Moriarty, " and he enjoyed discussing the odds and form in a relaxed social environment.

His family describe him as modest, engaging and always interested in people. “A man of moderation, he liked drinking a glass of Smithwicks on social occasions but seldom drank more as he felt alcohol to be ‘an inhibitor to people enjoyment’.”

Although he was an accomplished speaker, Vincent preferred to sing when called upon at parties and other celebrations. His signature song was The West’s Awake which he rendered in a distinctive and rousing voice.

He contracted Covid-19 in hospital in December last year and died on January 4th, aged 92.

The West’s Awake was played at his funeral in tribute “to a man who made an understated but significant contribution to the Irish State”.

Vincent is survived by his brother Brian, six children and 15 grandchildren.