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Niall MacDermot


Niall, The MacDermot

Prince of Coolavin 
25/04/1935 - 19/02/2003


Niall Anthony MacDermot was the eldest son of Dermot and Betty and inherited the MacDermot title on the death of his father in August 1989. Although neither Dermot nor Niall lived in the family home, Coolavin, when they were head of the family, both had an intense love for the family and Ireland and particularly that area of Ireland known as Moylurg. This was expressed in Dermot's case by writing the family history and by Niall for starting the MacDermot Clan Association in 1992.

Niall was born in Yokohama, Japan whilst his father was serving there in the British Diplomatic service. Niall first came to Ireland in the late thirties and his visit with his parents must have caused great amazement to the local population when they all alighted from the train at the small station of Island Road, which was the one for Coolavin. Not only was the amount of luggage amazing but the family was also accompanied by a Japanese amah. After living in Japan the family went to live in Tíai-pei, Formosa or Taiwan as it is now called. Niall was fortunate enough to visit Tíai-pei during the 1980s and discovered that the house where they lived is now a museum and the stone lions at the front door, on which he often sat, were still there. After Formosa the family went to live in Manila in the Philippines before returning to Japan. When Japan entered World War 2, Niall's mother and the children were given 24 hours to leave the country and all the diplomats were interned. They arrived in Australia where Niall remembered spending many happy and carefree days. After this came two spells in the USA - Denver and New Orleans and several years in England. It was during this time that Niall went to prep school at St Gerard's in Bray, Co Dublin and then on to Downside in Somerset, England. He was remembered at St Gerard's for his musical skills as from quite a young age, he played the organ for their church services. During all this time, he always looked on Ireland and Coolavin in particular as 'home' and spent many school holidays there with his brothers and cousins. All this travelling and separation from his parents made Niall an extremely independent person which greatly influenced his later life.

After a while at college in London studying Nuclear Physics, he joined the Royal Air Force as a pilot.. During his training he received the two top awards - the Glenn Trophy for Best Student and the Aerobatic Trophy for his flying skills. He went on to join various squadrons and flew mainly Hunters, Valliants and Vulcans. It was during this time that he met and married Janet (Jan) and their son Rory was born. Niall left the RAF in 1970 and went to work as production director for Neve's, an electronic company making sound recording equipment. Siobhan, their daughter was born then. During his time there, RTE, the Irish State Radio, were re-equipping their studios and Niall was responsible for designing the Angelus bell which is broadcast at noon and 6.00pm every day. No one else at Neveís knew what the Angelus was!!!! From there in the late 1970s, he returned to Ireland which had been on his mind for some time and joined Telectron, making telecommunication equipment. One of his responsibilities there was to find a suitable computer system for the manufacturing side of the company. As nothing really suitable was available at that time, he decided to write a system for them and computer software became his life from then until his death. He left Telectron in 1981 and had his own computer software company selling his own manufacturing software to several companies in Ireland and England until he retired in 2000. The Clan Association which Niall started in 1992 went on to have three successful Gathering in 1993, 1996 and 1999. He was helped enormously with the Clan Association by his family, Janet, Rory and Siobhan and his brother Conor. It is unfortunate with the death of Niall and Conor that the Association is not so active but the web site still keeps MacDermots around the world in touch with each other and hopefully when Rory and Siobhan have more time, the gatherings will start again.

After his retirement, he and Jan went to live in Cyprus as the damp climate of Ireland did not suit either of them. Niall's love of Cyprus started back in the 1950s when he visited it several times with the RAF. The people and the way of life in Cyprus are so similar to Ireland but with a wonderful warm climate. Although officially Niall had retired he still wrote software as a hobby, designing web sites for family and friends. Also with his retirement he was able to indulge in his love of music again, when he joined three choirs in Paphos.

As can be seen from his very varied life, Niall was always the innovator. He loved taking on a new challenge, what ever that was. May he rest in peace.



25 FEBRUARY 2003

Within this beautiful church today we see the broad spectrum of family and personal friends that cover the life of Niall MacDermot, Prince of Coolavin. From the family this ranges from Felicity, Madam MacDermot, representing the more senior level to baby Niall Ryan, the youngest and certainly the most vocal of those present. Most of you will know that Niall was born in the east, in Yokohama, during Sir Dermotís long and distinguished career in the British diplomatic service. Niall may well be regarded as an early example of modern-day technology transfer; 100% Irish in design but produced in Japan.

With the three lively brothers the MacDermot household would have been a noisy place during the school holidays. Whilst with Hugh he was usually easygoing with Conor he was always competitive; they enjoyed a friendly but robust relationship throughout their lives. They would argue and challenge each other over anything, their gardening, the bugs in their respective gardens and the pesticides that killed those bugs and in latter years this extended to websites and computers. When they were together life was never dull. Thus in his early years Niall was already developing the independence of mind and self assurance that would stand him in good stead in his first chosen career as a pilot in the Royal Air Force.

Sue and I met Jan and Niall almost 40 years ago in the anteroom of the Officers' Mess at RAF Finningley in Yorkshire on the occasion of the Spring Reception. Niall had already completed a tour as fighter pilot flying his beloved Hunters and, after a short spell as a co-pilot had graduated as a captain on Vulcan bombers. He was moving to No 50 Squadron where I was to join him a year later. He was the original boy pilot, a very competent flier with a high degree of self-confidence and an inborn instinct for survival. People will tell you that pilots think they are immortal; this is an understatement. They know that they are immortal and therefore will take on adversaries regardless of the odds. That attitude of mind stayed with Niall, won him his first battle with cancer 8 years ago and carried him through to the end. He was an eternal optimist and a fighter.

His was a personality with a magical combination of seeming contradictions. He could demonstrate remarkable insight, was a lateral thinker with a most logical approach to problems yet, by contrast, could also be quite impetuous. He threw up his university education after a tiff with a girl friend and, although well capable of going far in the RAF became frustrated at some of the strictures of service life and left prematurely.

In the family his short fuse was legendary. But we will remember him better for his charm, his enthusiasm and his style, something that both Siobhan and Rory have inherited in full.

Above all Niall was an individualist, not an organisation man. When he parted with the Royal Air Force as a squadron leader after 14 years in the service he went into industry where his flying skills would have counted for little. In his first job his forthright but astute criticism of the company's organisation did not get him the sack. Despite his inexperience in the field his ideas were taken up by the managing director and Niall left his office to displace the technical manager with the remit to reorganise the entire engineering side. And that he did and very successfully too. This must have been the genesis for his thoughts on industrial software programmes that subsequently dominated his business career. This period of his life coincided with a yearning to settle down in Ireland; he was quietly proud of his roots and had a romantic but deep attachment to the ancestral homeland around Boyle and to Coolavin in particular. Thus subsequent moves took them towards the home they established at Mullacash and the flow of technologically innovative and comprehensive programmes beginning with Microman and leading to the Vulcan series of more recent years.

Niall had become and stayed his own boss. Jan will also state that he was very much the boss in the family; but then our wives always say that of us regardless of the truth. He loved boating on the Shannon and it is true that Niall was always the captain. As such he expected his crew to use the correct nautical terms. The bow was always the bow and the stern was always the stern. And, as Ester may recall, woe betide anyone who called the galley the kitchen! In this new independent life he certainly worked hard and played hard. The software business is tough and fiercely competitive as you strive to keep just one step ahead of everyone else. Life was not always easy.

But throughout his professional careers he had in Jan the support of a wonderful wife who could calm the periodic storms, maintain a modicum of control when times were difficult and curb the occasional outbursts of over-enthusiasm. And Niall would tell you that Jan also contributed hugely to the business. Outside his long working hours Niall was much involved with his love of music and singing in particular. He was also the proud chief of the MacDermots after his father died and in 1993 founded the MacDermot Clan Association. This was a tremendous undertaking achieved only as a family project with full support from Rory and Siobhan.

When he and Jan retired to Cyprus he continued his musical associations by joining three separate choirs. He also established the Cyprus Irish Society in Paphos. The MacDermot was not good at sitting still for very long. But despite his capabilities he was totally unpretentious. He hated pomposity and arrogance and ignorant prejudice. Neither was he very impressed with long speeches!

I can feel his presence now, here with us all. I can see him narrowing his eyes in his very distinctive way whilst pursing his lips and saying "The man's gone on for too long!" Jan remarked last night that his attitude to life was summed up in the song made famous by Frank Sinatra. Forgive me if I misquote it a little:

Regrets he had but few, too few, too few to mention; Niall did it his way.

God Bless you MacDermot, and God Bless Jan and all of the family.