Tributes to successful and highly respected businessman Frankie McKeown

Frankie McKeown. Pictures courtesy of Old Lurgan Photos
Frankie McKeown. Pictures courtesy of Old Lurgan Photos

Tributes have been paid to highly successful businessman and sportsman, Frankie McKeown, who has passed away.

Frankie, the eldest son of Terence and Kathleen McKeown, had been a publican in his native Lurgan for many years and the family had lived above The Victoria Bar in Castle Lane

A keen sportsman, Frankie had a great passion for both Gaelic football and soccer.

As a former pupil of St Patrick’s College in Armagh, Frankie became fully involved with its past pupil society.

In his youth, he played for several local teams around Lurgan. He was a member of Clan Na Gael’s 1951 Championship team as a 17-year-old, later becoming a valued member with Wolf Tones in Derrymacash.

Frankie joined the family business, which had become a wholesale wines and spirit company, Terence McKeown & Sons.

Indeed he spent the rest of his working life helping to grow this into a highly successful company as Managing Director.

It eventually grew into Rehill McKeown, based for a while in premises in Mary St, Lurgan, then to purpose-built premises in Annesborough Industrial Estate.

He expanded the business into off licenses and later purchased MrErlains bakery in Belfast. The company was sold to C&C in the late 1990’s.

Frankie was highly respected in the business world. He was deemed a gentleman who was wise and generous with his time, helping clients and staff.

He was also part of the local Rotary and then Probus Club.

Frankie also had a passion for golf and was a member of Lurgan Golf Club since the early 1960’s. His proudest accolades included becoming a Captain in the early 1970’s and then President in early 1980’s.

Indeed he was involved in the club until very recently.

Frankie also loved horse racing and had a personal involvement in that he became part of one or two racing syndicates. His favourite venture was the ownership of a horse that would be called Church Place, as in the location in Lurgan. Frankie would regularly attend Fairyhouse, the Maze and many other Irish venues.

In a tribute, Frankie’s brother Donagh said: “When you know someone who has been part of your life for all of your life, you have many memories and good times to recall.

“From childhood Frankie was around, and perhaps because of the age difference, could easily and often was seen as my father. Indeed, from the age of 9 when my father died, he most definitely indirectly inherited the role. He was always caring, sometimes a little stern, though for the best reason, to instill a little discipline in a young boy’s life, only with a word, I should quickly add.

“It was his love for sport that we shared a joint passion, that began with a ‘kick around” in Silverwood. Always the competitive type, he occasionally let this young boy win.

“When he and Bridie got married, the two would temporarily adopt myself and younger sister Aideen as their own, before having their own children. By then I became a useful babysitter from time to time.

“Their door was always open and we were always welcome for family occasions. Boxing Day night was always a special time for wider family get togethers with the extended family.

“It’s taken me a couple of days to be able to write my thoughts about Frankie’s passing. It will take me quite a few more to come to terms with it, even though I’ve known for a while that these days were coming. My family and friends will have many stories to tell, all tinged with personal sadness, though all with a common vein of how much fun he could be, how generous he was, how he truly cared for all, not just us, his own family.

“A few years ago, I had the chance to make a short video for Frankie’s 80th birthday. I had a chance to make a few jokes, tell a few stories of his success in business and sport, and tell of his love of sport. Best of all though was to express something that I don’t think I really did over the previous 50 odd years I had known him. I said “Frankie, if I never told you before, I’ll tell you now. I love you”

Mr McKeown passed away peacefully at his home at Kiln Lane, Silverwood, Lurgan on February 27, 2019.

he was the beloved husband of Bridie and loving father of Mary (Rodgers), Anne (Neeson), and Mel, father-in-law to Kevin, Eamonn and Geraldine, a cherished grandfather of Bronagh, Niamh, Fergal, Kate, Orla, and Grainne, dear brother of Maire, Patricia, Terence (Jr), Michael, Gerald, Diarmuid, Donagh, Aideen and the late Jim and Jackie.

His funeral will be from his home, 10 Kiln Lane, Silverwood on Saturday at 11.30am to St. Paul’s Church for 12.00 noon Requiem Mass. Burial afterwards in St. Colman’s Cemetery.

Family flowers only please with donations in lieu if desired to, Chest, Heart & Stroke, c/o McAlinden & Murtagh, Funeral Directors, 5 William Street, Lurgan.