Paddy Maher (1936-2022) was one of the founders of the actuarial profession in Ireland. He passed away peacefully on November 3rd last in his 87th year.
In May 1972, Paddy and 16 others founded the Society of Actuaries in Ireland. This was a seminal moment. That original group of 17 has now grown to a thriving and well-respected profession of over 1,500 men and women. It has gone from strength to strength and is now the established professional body for all actuaries working in Ireland and has won wide recognition for the valuable perspectives actuaries can bring to a range of challenges primarily in the financial world but increasingly in a range of other areas. The society has also established itself as a valued contributor to international actuarial thought and practice on the European and world stages, paralleling Ireland’s growing confidence as a country.
It was not a foregone conclusion that there would ever be a distinct Irish actuarial profession. In 1972 Irish actuaries were few in number and were a largely forgotten backwater of the UK profession. This could have remained the case had it not been for the efforts of Paddy and his like-minded cofounders and those who have followed in their footsteps.
Paddy remained an active and enthusiastic supporter of the fledgling society and became its third president in the late 1970s. A colleague at the time recalls that, apart from his efforts in trying to gain recognition for the profession, Paddy also took on the unenviable task of getting agreement on a chain of office for the society. While actuaries can claim to a certain expertise in financial and risk matters that generally does not extend to jewellery design but that did not stop people having strong opinions! Paddy demonstrated great diplomatic skills in getting agreement on a design by Rudolf Heltzel which has since been worn proudly by successive presidents. Throughout his career Paddy remained a staunch supporter of the society and his jovial company has been missed at events in recent years as he dealt with declining health.
As a senior member of the profession and as the appointed actuary of New Ireland – a position he was proud to hold – Paddy was a mentor and role model for generations of young actuaries. As one of his protégés said: “I’m deeply grateful to Paddy for the opportunities that he gave me at such an early stage in my career. It positioned me very well for whatever success I had later. And right up to very recent times I have sought and valued Paddy’s opinion.”
Paddy always made time to help other actuaries and many comments made recently capture this very well. “I first met Paddy as a 17 year old to ask his advice on becoming an actuary. He was a kind and gentle man”. Another was: “Paddy was a fantastic support when I was going through a rough patch in my career”.
In those New Ireland days, Paddy was inseparable from his pipe, and a constant (and it has to be said pleasant) smell of tobacco permeated not only in his room but also the corridor outside! He had a strong, quirky sense of humour and his signature laugh often echoed up and down that same corridor.
Paddy was a Tipperary man and remained loyal to his county and to his farming background. He was educated in Glenstal Abbey where he made some lifelong friendships and had happy memories of his time there. It was at Glenstal that he developed an early interest in maths which, when combined with his sharp mind, later led to an honours degree from UCD. During his time in UCD he first became aware of the actuarial profession, and on graduating, he joined the consulting offices of Bacon and Woodrow in London where he qualified as an actuary in 1965. He returned to Dublin in 1967 to take up the post of assistant actuary in New Ireland.
It was there he met his future wife Anne Quinlan. They married in 1970 and celebrated their 52nd anniversary months before Paddy’s death. Paddy is also survived by his brother, Michael, in Australia.
Sir Francis Bacon said “I hold every man a debtor to his profession.” Paddy lived this and Irish actuaries are indeed in his debt.
PAUL O’FAHERTY, FSAI