Jack McMahon personified all that is good and true in a close-knit unit. He was, of course, best-known in Portadown for establishing the JR McMahon menswear retail outlet.
But he always insisted that his true calling was the family – and he was especially proud that a fourth-generation ‘Jack’ made his way in to the world in November last year, just three months before Jack senior (83) passed away.
Jack McMahon died at his Ballyhannon home. His sons John and Ian live nearby with their families, and all the branches of the McMahons were around his bedside when he finally slipped away.
Jack had bravely borne the conditions of multiple sclerosis (MS) for around 30 years – the first signs were manifested in his early 50s. But, with the help of his devoted family – in particular Audrey, his wife of 61 years - he fought it with great courage, leading a fulfilling life.
An example of this was the fact that they continued to enjoy their family holidays, come what may, right up until last year. They had a holiday home in Dunfanaghy, Donegal, and they went on various cruises over the years, for life on board ship (with facilities for the disabled) suited them admirably.
As well as Audrey, John and Ian, Jack is survived by four generations – his brother Gordon McMahon, sister Ruby McAlpine, daughters-in-law Valerie and Julie, grandchildren Richard, Caroline, Jack, Sophie and Sam, plus baby Jack.
He and the family experienced a shattering blow in 1974 when daughter Carolyn (16) passed away, after a two-year battle with cancer. She was a student at Portadown College, and the school presented her with an award for her indomitable spirit. It remains a treasured family possession and helped them come to terms with her death, although they never recovered from the shock of losing such a talented daughter.
Jack McMahon was born and bred in Portadown to Nat and Sadie McMahon. His dad was a respected auctioneer and valuer, his premises-cum-home being at the Thomas Street-William Street corner. The firm was ‘McMahon and Livingstone’.
He went to nearby Thomas Street Public Elementary School when the famed Isaac Dalton was principal, and spent a short time at Portadown College, prior to entering the retail trade at the age of 15, where he spent his entire working life.
He began at Corbett’s Men’s Shop in High Street where his colleagues included Harold McAfee, Ernie Atkinson, Ben Cassells and Jim McClung.
During his Corbett sojourn, he met his future wife Audrey (he was just 16) and they remained together for the rest of his life – they were married 61 years ago at Audrey’s home church, Knock Presbyterian in East Belfast.
Their entire married life was spent in Portadown, where Jack set up his gents’ outfitters in 1956, in a small shop in Thomas Street. But he was to experience a rather nomadic time in town, a combination of expansions and having to move to temporary premises due to terrorist bombs during the troubles. His shops were at Thomas Street, West Street, Market Street, The Meadows and High Street.
By the time John had moved in to help with the business, Jack’s MS began to take hold (they were in their present High Street premises by then). And they jointly steered the business through the devastating bombs of the 1990s with the shops having to be totally rebuilt after the 1998 blockbuster. JR McMahon’s traded from the Meadows Centre for a spell during the re-building.
Retailing is in the blood, and Jack’s younger son Ian is the owner of DV8 which has branches throughout Ireland, while grandson Richard (John’s son) is the third generation in the Portadown business.
Ironically, Jack’s great friend Ernie Thornton – who died a few weeks ago – had his gents’ outfitters just up Edward Street razed in the 1998 blast – it is now the Alexander, Bain and Murray Opticians.
Ernie and Jack were great football friends, having jointly formed the ‘Shop Boys’ team in Portadown – they were “tied” to their shops on Saturdays, and played on Thursdays, half-day closing. Jack, in fact, could have made it in Irish League Football – he had spells with Cliftonville and Glentoran - but had to content himself with Mid Ulster League football, as custodian of Marlborough United who won the Championship in 1954-55.
He was also a keen snooker player (he had a full-sized table at home) and was an avid Sunderland fan. But his greatest love was his family – and his nephew and friend Dr Michael McBrien emphasised this during the eulogy at St Mark’s Church on Ireland on Sunday. Jack had been a member of the Select Vestry.
Michael told as packed congregation how Jack loved his home town, and how the family made full use of their home in Donegal. Jack and Audrey, he recalled, were familiar figures on their twin Honda 50 mopeds along the lanes around Dunfanaghy and on Marble Hill Strand, totally enjoying the beauty and tranquillity of the area.
And son John summed it up when he told the mourners that each and every member of the McMahon family had lost a devoted father and their best friend, whose memory they would cherish for the rest of their lives.
Ian read the Bible lesson, the service was conducted by Canon Jim Campbell, recently retired rector of St Mark’s, and the hymns were ‘Be Thou My Vision’ and ‘Mine Eyes Have Seen the glory’.
Burial was at the family plot in Mullabrack Churchyard, Markethjill, and donations in lieu of flowers are to – The MS Society, c/o Malcolmson Funeral Services, Robert Street, Lurgan BT66 8BE.