It was with great sadness recently that we learned of the death of Edwin McCormack, Viewmount, Dublin Rd, Longford, at the age of 86 years.
A towering figure of a man, he has left a huge legacy that impacted for the better on education, literature, religion and farming in Co Longford.
Edwin was born in February 1931, the seventh son of Isobel and William and they farmed at Tully on the outskirts of Longford town. His siblings included the brothers William, Robert, Cecil, Walter, Bert, Fred and Ivan (all RIP) and the two surviving family members, George (Moydow) and Evelyn Wright (Abbeyshrule).
As a young boy Edwin went to live with his aunt and uncle, Anna and John Cody, at Killenbore, Colehill and would have attended Tashinney school and later Ballymahon Vocational School. He delighted in rural life and explored every nook and cranny in his new home. Every day was an adventure and when he wasn’t at school or helping on the farm, he was out and about sharpening an inquisitive mind that subsequently gave so much to the county. One of the early discoveries was the River Inny and whilst many of us like to go to the pool for our exercise, Edwin, even in his latter years, much preferred to swim in his beloved River Inny.
Farming was in the McCormack DNA and after completing his studies at Ballymahon VS he left to study agricultural science at Gurteen College. One of the benefits of his time in Gurteen was that it provided a chance meeting with his future and beloved wife, Nancy Giles. As was typical of Edwin he agreed to travel down to Bandon, Co Cork with a friend from college and help him out with some work on the family farm. Whilst there he met his friend’s sister and so began a wonderful romance.
The couple were engaged when Edwin was just 18 and married in 1956. Ireland in the 1950s was very much at a crossroads and Edwin instinctively knew the value of education and felt an overwhelming responsibility to teach. He decided to return to college, which was very unusual at that time, and in the same year that he was married, he qualified as a woodwork and technical drawing teacher.
The newly weds left for England where Edwin was to work as a manager on a large farm in the south of the country. However a phone call soon after was to define the rest of their lives. That call was for a job at Ballinamuck Vocational School and there he taught for the next five and a half years. He enjoyed his time in north Longford and delighted in the people and their proud traditions and values. Though his time there was relatively short it was truly remarkable to see so many past pupils from that period of his life come to pay their final respects to a teacher, who was hugely influential in their lives. For this was a man who fostered in so many, a love and understanding of education and the trades, and doubtlessly helped transform their lives.
From Ballinamuck VS, he then took up a role at the Longford Vocational School (Oliver Plunkett’s), on the Battery Rd. He was a strong and committed presence in the school and a driving force in the cultivation of so many young and successful lives. His ability to lead and inspire others was also recognised and he was appointed vice principal at the school in 1984. Edwin saw the value in every student and often worked the hardest with those who struggled the most. He earnestly believed that each and every pupil deserved the same opportunity and it was a doctrine and outlook that underpinned his teaching outlook until his retirement in 1992.
Whilst there were many facets to his life, he was probably first and foremost a farmer and a man of the land. He loved those early days in Colehill and subsequently was hugely influential and a great help to both sons, Niall and Brian, as they set about very different farming enterprises.
When he wasn’t teaching or farming on the family farm in Colehill, Edwin immersed himself in a world of academia. He was a prolific researcher and loved local history. From his earliest boyhood days in Colehill to the time spent in Ballinamuck, he delighted in the folklore and sayings and customs of rural Longford. He was a regular contributor to journals and historical publications and these included a number of the Historical Society’s Teabhta yearbooks. He featured in the Longford Leader’s centenary publication with a wonderful account of the lesser known but hugely influential Longford writer, Charlotte Brooke. The same publication in 1997 also featured a brilliant account of the history of vocational education in the county by the deceased. In addition to his historical writings he also contributed to a number of trade magazines and technical publications down through the years and would also have set exam papers for a number of apprenticeship schemes.
He was one of the foremost members of the Methodist community in Longford and a leading light in the ecumenical movement. He was a lay preacher and would have undertaken duties in several of the Midlands counties and beyond over the years. Whilst deeply religious he wasn’t a man who wore his religion on his sleeve and most of all, he strove to practice what he preached.
Those same ecumenical principles manifested themselves too in his teaching career and how he set about day-today life. He treated everybody fairly and would have been horrified at the prospect of inflicting an injustice on anybody. He was truly a man who saw the best in everybody and felt it was his Christian duty to help them realise their true potential.
He enjoyed political discourse and thrived on a good debate. He immersed himself in books and a day never went by but he would have read the bible. He was also a keen Gaelgoir and was fiercely proud of his Irish identify. Having grown up in the shadow of Abbeyshrule it is no surprise to learn that he liked to take to the skies and was regularly flown over the county by his good friend, George Farrar. He delighted in pinpointing various historical sites and monuments from the air.
For such a busy man it is hard to imagine another side to Edwin McCormack but first and foremost, he was a dedicated and committed family man. His beloved late wife Nancy, who passed away in 2013, was the great love of his life. She was a true friend and a wonderful companion for him. Many say they brought out the best in each other and she steadfastly supported him in all his endeavours down through the years. You rarely saw one without the other and they were enthusiastic patrons of the arts and regularly attended our local Backstage Theatre. They were also keen travellers and would have explored most of the Irish counties and a number of the continental countries also.
Similarly Edwin was a loving husband and a devoted father to Brian, Niall, Clodagh and Gillian. He has left his family a treasure trove of memories. In latter years he would have delighted in the arrival of his grandchildren and for them he was a magical figure, full of knowledge and mischief.
Edwin McCormack of Viewmount, Longford town and formerly of Colehill, died on January 17, 2017. He was predeceased by his beloved wife, Nancy, and his passing is mourned by his heartbroken family, Niall, Brian, Clodagh and Gillian; his brother, George; his sister, Evelyn Wright; daughters-in-law, sons-in-law; his thirteen grandchildren, Gemma, Katie, Leonie, Brianna, Jocelyn, Giles, Lurene, Sahr, Abbie, Faya, Rachel, Sara and Laura; relatives and his many friends.
His remains reposed at the home of his son Brian and daughter-in-law, Alison, at Goshen House, Goshen Cross, Edgeworthstown, and were later brought to Longford Methodist Church, Battery Road, Longford for funeral service, with burial afterwards in Carrickedmond cemetery.