I would love to be able to go back in time and meet John Francis Maguire as he was probably a fascinating man. He was born 200 years ago in 1815 and was my mother Frances Dwyer’s great grandfather.

During the week I was walking through Academy Street in Cork where one of our national papers The Irish Examiner used to be printed and I saw a plaque on the wall that I hadn’t seen before, commemorating the life of John Francis Maguire and I was so pleased and proud to see his memory honoured in such a way.

He was a man of many talents and a man with had the foresight to found a national daily paper in 1841 and remarkably the paper he founded, originally The Cork Examiner now known as The Irish Examiner, is still being published daily 174 years later by the Crosbie family who were his original partners back in 1841.

He qualified as a barrister and was very much involved in Irish affairs. He became a member of parliament (MP) for Dungarvan between 1852 and 1865 and subsequently was MP for Cork from 1865 to his death in 1872. He was also elected Lord Mayor of Cork in 1852 and again for the years 1862, 1863 and 1864. On the political front he was very much involved in the Home Rule Movement and was a staunch defender of the rights of Roman Catholics. Mostly he wanted Ireland to look after its own affairs. He was also an active supporter of the suffragette movement.

As a writer he was very much involved in writing for his own paper then The Cork Examiner and was the author of a number of books including The Irish in America printed in 1867 which highlighted the problems that the poor Irish emigrants faced when they reached America often without any money or job prospects. He also spoke about the Irish love affair with alcohol, the reason he argued that many Irishmen spent some time in American jails in their early years in their adopted country. He also wrote “Rome and Its Ruler” in 1857 and “The Life of Fr Matthew” in 1862

I often wonder is it luck or good planning that allows some businesses to last whilst so many fall by the wayside and in reality it’s probably a little of each. My old family firm Dwyer & Co was started in 1820 by James Dwyer lasted through 5 generations till the 1980’s. We were successful for a while! My own firm City Life was started in 1971 and with son Eamon now in charge we have been in business for just 44 years so we are still really only getting started! Eurostyle the business my brother George started around the same time as City Life is also still going strong with two of his sons Alan and Peter at the helm.

I then thought about other Cork businesses that have lasted through the generations and in particular the legal profession as they seem to be particularly adept at moving their businesses to following generations.

For example my Mother’s oldest brother Neil Daly started a legal practice in Cork in the 1930’s and was subsequently joined by his nephew, my cousin Frank Daly. Frank in fact kindly rented my company City Life our first office when we started in 1971 in the attic of their building which at that time was at 19 South Mall. Frank subsequently joined up with the firms of John Ronan and John Jermyn to create Ronan Daly Jermyn one of the fastest growing legal firms in the country with offices in Cork, Galway, Dublin and London and who now employ 140 people in their Cork office.

I understand that the Jermyn branch of RDJ could very well have been the oldest legal firm in Cork and understand it was started around the 1840’s and whilst John Jermyn who joined up originally with Frank Daly and the late John Ronan, has recently retired from RDJ, the Jermyn connection remains strong with two of John’s children John C and Carol both working as solicitors within the firm.

What is quite fascinating about RDJ a firm that currently has over 70 solicitors employed is that the last three managing partners even though they all have different surnames are all directly descended from the same John Francis Maguire who had originally qualified in the legal profession.

The current managing partner is Richard Martin who is a grandson of Rosemary Whitaker nee Daly my mother’s sister. The managing partner before Richard was John Dwyer my brother George’s son and the managing partner before John was the above mentioned Frank Daly son of my mother’s younger brother Teddy. So is that a coincidence or do some of John Francis Maguire’s genes move through the generations. I would like to think so!

Can anyone spot any similarities with Richard John or Frank?

Another Cork legal firm with a long history a firm that has lasted through five generations has been the firm of Donegans started by Daniel Donegan in 1851 then passed to his son Henry in 1893. Henry E Donegan took over in 1928 and his son Jim Donegan took over in 1954 and the business is now being run since 1992 by Jim’s son David. I think that’s a   wonderful story in how to move a business through the generations. Have a look at their succession story on their website. It’s very well done.

There are many more examples of legal firms in Cork lasting through the generations and perhaps the fact that legal firms cannot incorporate and most act as sole traders for most of their business transactions means that the equity in the partnership tends to be more closely held than would otherwise be the case. Often when the ownership of a business is held in a limited company it is very easy to give many family members shares in the business and this can often create succession issues at a later date that can result in businesses being sold.

So this year let’s celebrate the life of John Francis Maguire born 200 years ago. We thank him for the good example and the business legacy he left behind to his City of Cork.

Ted Dwyer Family Business

February 2015