My Life Story
My life began in a Hospital in Belfast on 23rd September 1943. My family lived in the Townland of Drumderg a few miles outside Draperstown. My father had a shop and bar. Drumderg was a farming area and my father did some farming on the side. Most people worked on the land and few were employed away from their family farms. You can imagine that it was a tough existence. The strange thing was I came back to a place with an international atmosphere. This was during the second World War and the area was full of American and British soldiers who were preparing for the invasion of the European mainland. I am sure some of them did not survive that but my mother told me they treated myself and the other locals very well. I was the youngest by ten years of a family of five, three girls and two boys. One child called Brian died when he was an infant.
I have been told many times that I was spoiled by the family. I know that I was not spoiled when I was growing up. I had to work in the shop and bar and help my father to do his bit of farming when I could and later when I was home on holidays. Members of the family helped me during my formative years and I could not have developed without their assistance. Eventually I went to primary school in Moneyneena. It was a very good school and the teachers were great especially the principal JJ Campbell. In 1954 I got the elven plus. One of my brothers “Patsy” went to the United States in the late 40s and was conscripted into the American army. He lived in Beacon New York state when he first went there. I remember his going away and the “Convoy” as his leaving party was called. None of us thought we would ever see him again. Strangely he was back twice in the next few years. He was in the American army and stationed in Germany. He called himself “Pat”. The name “Patsy” had an embarrassing meaning in America. Pat married in the USA, had a family and has been buried there. He came home many times but did not want to return here.
"When I was thinking of retiring I had the good fortune to hear about Joseph Mallon who was working in Dublin and had been to Trinity"
When I got the eleven plus I was sent to St. Columb’s College in Bishop Street, Derry as a boarder. There were something like 250 boarders there and 500 day boys. The boarders came from all over e.g. Donegal, Tyrone, County Derry and Fermanagh. The day boys were from Derry City and nearby towns in Donegal, Tyrone and Derry County even from Australia (they had arrived from Australia with their father who was an officer in the Australian Navy and sent to Derry because it was a naval base at that time and had sailors from lots of places.
St. Columb’s College was a very good school and over the years produced students many of whom became known all over the world, needless to say I was not one of them but at least I got into University. I cannot include all the famous ones and I will mention only a few e.g. John Hume, Seamus Heaney, Brian Friel, Phil Coulter, Paul Brady and many more including a Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, Declan Morgan.
You can imagine the change of lifestyle it was for me a country yokel when I arrived in college in a place like Derry. I enjoyed it and was never homesick but was always delighted to be getting home on “the South Derry bus” for holidays. The holidays for me meant freedom but also meant work in the shop, bar and helping my father on the land. I never had my mind set on any career when I was in the college. My parents would have liked me to be a veterinary surgeon. They thought it was a money maker, so did I but I had worked with animals enough when I was at home.
In my final year I still did not know what I wanted to do. Around Easter time in my final year I was told there was a talk by a law lecturer from Queens giving a talk about the legal profession in the Technical College on the Strand Road in Derry. I went and it changed my life. The talk enlightened me. I thought that the subjects I was doing would suit studying law. I investigated further and decided to do law. As far as I remember it was too late to apply to Queens but I discovered that I could apply to University College, Dublin. I was accepted there and got a scholarship from the Education Authorities in Northern Ireland. It was a new world for me. Dublin was a capital city, the buildings were fascinating and beautiful. There were people from all over the world there attending the various institutes of education. The law faculty had students from Africa, Europe and Asia as well as the Irish.
At UCD there were students from all parts of Ireland. It was not long before I could identify what country a person came from because of his or her accent. I soon settled down to the life of a student. It is probably wrong to say “settled down”. You just became used to it but settling down – No. I enjoyed life to the full, lots of parties and dances. The girls were beautiful and outnumbered the boys. What could be wrong with that.
"Joe took over the business on my retirement in 2015. I cannot think of a more capable individual than Joe. I am glad the business is expanding and that I can sleep content"
You were not able to practice as a Solicitor with only a law degree. You had to get an apprenticeship with a qualified Solicitor and attend lectures conducted by the Law Society in the Law Courts. The same system was used in Northern Ireland. The difficulty I had was I did not know any Solicitors in Northern Ireland or the Republic. I decided to try Northern Ireland as I at least knew of Solicitors there. One of my fellow students told me his father would give me an apprenticeship in the Republic but I thought you would need to have connections there if you qualified as a Solicitor so I made up my mind to go back home when I graduated. At least I knew a lot more people there and I always wanted to set up my own practice. I would have struggled to do that in Dublin. I liked Dublin but I felt it would not be easy to start a practice.
When I graduated I went back home. My father’s Solicitor was E Malachy Doris in Cookstown. I went to see him and I was lucky. I got an apprenticeship with him. He was one of the best Solicitors in Northern Ireland and was very successful. He was a great tutor for me. He worked all hours, late at night and sometimes into the early hours of the morning. He had also been the President of the Law Society. I had to do my apprenticeship working in the office in Cookstown and go to lectures in the Law Courts on two afternoons a week which were organised by the NI Law Society. I knew there was no jobs for me in the office run by E Malachy Doris. His son Jimmy (or James being more formal) had qualified as a Solicitor as I was finishing my apprenticeship so I was wondering where I could get a job. Near the end of my last year of apprenticeship a secretary employed by the Law Society approached me as I was going into lectures and asked if I had a job. I told her I didn’t. She asked me to wait until she made a phone call. She came back and asked me if I could go to an office in Lisburn out of which the firm of W G Maginess & Son practised. I jumped at the chance. The secretary in question was Miss Beattie who was very good to the apprentices and an absolute lady. I went to the firm of W G Maginess & Son and was interviewed. I was given the job that evening. I qualified that year which was 1969 and started to work with W G Maginess & Son after I qualified. I worked for them for two years. I still wanted to start my own practice but I could not praise them enough. They treated me so well and were very generous to me. I still had my own practice in mind and that was the only reason I left W G Maginess & Son.
Sheena and I got married in 1970. Sheena knew what I had in mind and was very supportive. I decided that Maghera would be the right place. I knew Joe and Bridie Gormley and spoke to them. Joe said I should set up there and arranged a rented house owned by Hugh & Ita Glass for us in which I could use a couple of rooms as an office. The premises were in Hall Street. My father was a customer of the Bank of Ireland, Magherafelt. I made an appointment with the Manager John Sheerin who gave me every encouragement. I started the business in 1971.
Over the years I moved premises three times and when we started a family we moved to Lavey where we and our children were extremely happy. The boys, Brian Paddy and Michael enjoyed football and hurling. Mary our only daughter did not take up sport but she really was very content in Lavey.
I ask myself how did I succeed in business in Maghera. I have a belief about any business. It is important it has good staff. After a short time a business man told me a young girl from Upperlands was looking for a job. I spoke to her and employed her. That girl was Lorraine Wilkinson now McConaghie. She was with me for 30 years. She was one of the reasons why I was able to keep the business going. A Barrister friend of mine said she was the best Secretary he had ever dealt with. Two other secretaries were with me for a long time, Jackie Robinson and Louise Hegarty. Jackie in particular was a fantastic secretary and deserves a special mention. They were of great value to me and the business. They are still working for the firm Mallon McCormick. Another staff member who deserves a special mention and is still with the firm is Linda Convery, our bookkeeper. Linda over many years has proved herself to be a loyal, steady, trustworthy and invaluable colleague.
When I was thinking of retiring I had the good fortune to hear about Joseph Mallon who was working in Dublin and had been to Trinity. I made contact with him and he started to work with me in 2004 and eventually a partnership was formed in 2008 which existed until my retirement in 2015.
Following the partnership in 2008 the firm was called Mallon McCormick Solicitors.
Joe took over the business on my retirement in 2015. I cannot think of a more capable individual than Joe. I am glad the business is expanding and that I can sleep content.