A great Roscommon man

The late Michael Fitzmaurice was the heart and soul of the Roscommon Association in Dublin…

While an impressive shortlist could be drawn up, I’m pretty sure I’ve never met a person who was as passionate and proud of County Roscommon as Michael Fitzmaurice was.

Countless thousands of us are rightly proud of Roscommon, its people, history and heritage; many have displayed that in selfless ways. Michael was certainly unique in his extraordinary devotion to his native county. And he backed that devotion up with action.

What remarkable service he gave to this county, all in a voluntary capacity, all done with the courtesy, modesty and generosity of spirit that so characterised this gentlest of men.

While I knew Michael very well for over 30 years, he had almost reached retirement age by the time we first met.

In the late 1980s, as I was finding my feet in the Roscommon Champion, I began to have dealings with the Ballinlough native, then – and always – the unassuming driving force behind a variety of Roscommon-related activities in the Capital.

The enormous good that he did in Dublin over several decades has been well documented. Michael was instrumental in forming what became known as the Roscommon Association in Dublin in 1952. They were different times. The new organisation made a very positive contribution. Roscommon people based in Dublin now had a social outlet. Roscommon people coming to Dublin were able to call on the association for help and advice, to do with employment, accommodation, etc.

The Roscommon Association was extremely proactive in supporting Roscommon GAA teams, Roscommon-based charities too. The group didn’t confine its activities to Dublin either; members regularly travelled to Roscommon to support causes here, in person. In latter years, Michael was very involved in the successful Roscommon International Reunions.

Over several decades, with great support from loyal committee members and supporters, Michael Fitzmaurice was the heart and soul of the Roscommon Association. He was innovative, passionate, generous and tireless. He was greatly supported by his wife Attracta, a wonderful lady. An exceptional couple who tirelessly supported Roscommon initiatives, it was always an uplifting experience to meet them.

In 1980, having already done our county some considerable service from the Capital, Michael Fitzmaurice launched the Roscommon Association Yearbook. This annual publication became a ‘must-read’ for Roscommon people at home and abroad. Michael worked extremely hard – a labour of love, no question – gathering content and editing the book. The Yearbook was particularly well received by Roscommon folks abroad. The various Roscommon Associations worldwide – all of them thriving at the time – submitted reports and photographs. Michael meanwhile ensured there was a great mix of historical articles, sports’ summaries, opinion pieces, social photos, etc.

During Michael’s 21 years editing the yearbook, I was happy to contribute regular articles. He was always a pleasure to deal with. He was very proud of the yearbook, but extremely humble about his own role. In truth, the yearbook would never have been published were it not for Michael’s unstinting commitment to it.

Later, his great friend Mike Lennon took over as Editor, and later still I stepped into the hot seat for a few years (we renamed the Roscommon Yearbook ‘Roscommon Life’).

Michael Fitzmaurice was a most deserving and popular recipient of a Co. Roscommon Person of the Year Award when the Roscommon Champion ran that annual event. How fitting that such a great Roscommon man would be so honoured.

Fiona and I had many happy social engagements with Michael and Attracta, ranging from events in Roscommon to gatherings in Maye’s in North Frederick Street, and Roscommon Association Dances in the city.

His death last Sunday leaves a huge void, for his family, his friends, his county. A proud Ballinlough man, he wore his love for his home county with the most tremendous pride. A long-time employee of Arnotts in Dublin, he was only on loan to the Capital, for while he happily settled in Dublin many decades ago, he never really left Roscommon.

Michael’s legacy to his beloved county is enormous. The work he did, with such joy, enthusiasm and positivity, lives on in print and in our memory.

The good that he and many of his colleagues did impacted very positively for so many people, men and women who were grateful for the doors which were opened by the Roscommon Association, grateful too for its social dimension, and for its charity work.

Most of all, when I think of him now at this sad time, I think of a man with a gentle disposition…always friendly, courteous, modest and good-humoured.

Sincere sympathy on Michael’s passing is extended to his wife Attracta, to their sons Ronan, Declan and Aidan, their daughter Deirdre, their grandchildren and extended family members. May he rest in peace.

Michael Fitzmaurice made an enormous positive contribution to the county he so passionately loved. He was a great Roscommon man.