Seamus McGeary: Maghery man was 'epitome of humility, integrity, loyalty and mischief'
SEAMUS McGeary, to those who knew him, was the epitome of humility, integrity, loyalty and mischief.
A teacher, rugby player and devoted husband and father, at his Requiem Mass in his beloved Maghery, Co Armagh, his son Michael summed him up with a beautiful reflection.
“Seamus was a strong man but a humble, gentle man, adventurous, independent, homely and traditional," he said.
"His heart was always in Ireland; he enjoyed teaching in Spain but was happiest working in the yard or cutting the hedges in Milltown and chatting to the neighbours.
"The love he had for Maghery was the love we have for Maghery; both my brother and I got a lot of respect for being Seamus’s sons; it always filled us with pride.”
Born in 1942 in the townland of Milltown in Maghery, Seamus was educated at St Marys PS and St Patrick’s College, Armagh, where he was known as a classics scholar, a talented footballer and a mischief maker.
He achieved a perfect score of 400 marks out of 400 in a Junior Certificate exam and rose to head prefect, much to the disbelief of his peers.
Alongside his brother Brian, Seamus played for the Sean McDermott club in Maghery, while their brother Micheál served as a club official and was a sports journalist with The Irish News and other publications.
Seamus studied at Queen's University where he met and married the love of his life, Susan Gowdy, who had been a student of Methodist College across the road.
Susan was born in the Cornish fishing village of Port Isaac (renamed Portwenn for the TV drama Doc Martin) and their love and partnership endured for over 50 years.
Seamus and Susan settled in Magherafelt where she taught English in St Mary’s Grammar School and the local technical college while he taught English and history to the pupils of Rainey Endowed School as well as coaching its rugby teams.
His own playing career included Armagh rugby club, Queen's and Ballymena, where he played alongside Irish internationals Willie John McBride, Syd Millar, Alan McLean and Ian McIlrath.
Seamus was renowned as a sprinter and strong athlete, though Willie John always said that despite being able to outpace any winger, he “invariably went over the top of them”.
In 1972 the call of the Iberian Peninsula drew Seamus and Susan to Catalonia and Vilafranca del Penedes, about 30 miles from Barcelona.
They set up a language academy where they taught English to students of all ages. Among Seamus’s pupils was Miguel Torres, MD of the Torres Wine empire.
The couple were very popular and established many relationships. Seamus loved visiting small farmers, vineyards and wineries around Vilafranca and he began to buy and sell and export its wines.
He always kept himself very fit and healthy and continued his long distance running around Vilafranca.
Twin boys David and Michael were born in 1978 and they followed their parents into teaching.
Seamus and Susan retired in 2014 and returned to Maghery. However, they didn’t have long to enjoy their retirement as Seamus was visited by serious debilitating illness.
He spent the rest of his life battling against Alzheimer’s Disease while his devoted wife Susan cared for him, making life as normal as possible in his own home.
The McGeary house was always a place of welcome and Susan was blessed with faithful carers and obliging relatives, friends and neighbours.
Seamus passed away on December 13 in the comfort and devotion of his loved ones. It was noteworthy that it was the feast day of St Lucia, since the second love of Seamus’s life was his granddaughter Lucia.
Seamus McGeary will be most sorely missed by Susan, their sons, granddaughters, his brother Brian and other relatives, while the Maghery community and his many contemporaries and school friends in the “Seniles” and sporting colleagues will remember an honoured friend.
Ba tú ár laoch, Seamus; Dia garda duit.