John F McShane

Vol. 6 No. 3 - 1993


John F McShane

by Anon

Mr John F (Jack) McShane, a foundation member of Craigavon Historical Society died in January 1992.

Mr McShane was born in Banbridge in 1900and received his Secondary education at Banbridge Academy. His teacher training was at St Parick's College in Drumcondra. Extra-mural studies enabled him to graduate in Arts at Queen's University, Belfast in 1931

In 1934 he was appointed principal teacher of St Columba's Boys' School in Portadown where his teaching and the pride he took in the school earned him the great respect of pupils, teachers, and parents. He retired in 1966.

Shortly after his retirement the idea of creating the new City of Craigavon was beginning to become a reality. Jack McShane's interest in the history and geography of the locality encouraged him to become a founder member of Craigavon Historical Society. His interest and experience contributed much and helped the Society to grow to its present-day size and importance. His suggestions and opinions were much respected.

Jack McShane was one of the members of the Historical Society who represented the historical and other interests on the working party formed by the Development Commission during the planning stage of the new City.

He was also a past chairman of the Retired Teachers' Union and a member of the Ulster Archaeological Society. As a very keen bridge player he was a team member of the local club as well as an enthusiastic member of the Portadown Probus Club - an organisation for retired business and professional people, Mr McShane's wife died in 1985 and he is survived by three daughters, Judy in Spain, Marie - Wicklow, Gabrielle - Portadown and a son Barney. He also leaves three sisters.

As a tribute to his memory we publish his story 'A Walk Along Dunlaoghaire Pier' - written in his 90th year.

A Walk Along Dunlaoghaire Pier

One morning in 1920 I went for a walk along Dunlooghaire pier swaggering my new walking stick. I was a student in Dublin at the time and was often glad to spend my slender pocket money making trips by tram to places of interest such as Kingstown as it was then called.

On this particular morning there was no one about but myself; the harbour was deserted and lonely and there was no sign of human activity.

At the end I looked over the parapet and below six or seven feet of slimy slippery stonework slope was a young fellow of my age with his feet already in the water and his hand slithering through the seaweed, a look of despair in his eyes, and like the notorious drowning man clutching the straw, still hugging to himself his precious walking-stick.

I grasped an iron mooring ring in my left hand and lowered myself about a foot down the greasy slope. I was strong and my nerve as cool as the iron ring. I held my walking-stick to him the handle towards him. After some fumbling he hooked his stick in the handle of mine and with all the authority I could command I warned him not to pull lest the heads come off but to steady himself until he found a footholc among the big stones. This he did and in a little while he found a foothold and began a frantic search for a handhold. He let go the stick and I slung the two sticks on to the dry top of the wall behind me. Then I lowered myself another foot down the slope with the intention of offering him my hand but he forestalled me; my ankle was now close to him. This he grabbed fiercely and with many a perilous slither he made his way up to my knee and then to my shoulder. There I think he knelt on me and with an awkward sprawl he reached the top of the wall, With my two hands free I swung up easily behind him and we stood facing each other, picking seaweed off our jacket buttons.

He shook hands with me and said, 'It's well you came by", which I took as full acknowledgment and thanks for my part in the affair. Then he gave his stick a merry wanton twirl and stared at me with a badly frightened look - he was left with the empty handle in his hand. Quickly he picked up the piece from the ground and fled from the pier as if he felt that the vast tide-water of eternity was still lapping at his heels.

Without swaggering I walked staidly up to the tram which took me back to Dublin for a meagre lunch, wondering now and then why he found himself in such danger and finally concluding that he must hove dropped something, perhaps his walking stick, and slipped in an effort to retrieve it. This happened a life time ago but walking-sticks are still in fashion. Without the one I use nowadays I couldn't walk two steps.