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Saturday 22 July 2017

Denis Magee

Accomplished Irish businessman had strong interest in golf and the arts

Denis Magee, who died on September 13 at the age of 82, was a prominent Irish engineer and businessman and a former chief executive of the Jones Group.

Born in Belfast, his family moved to Granard, Co Longford, where he was reared.

His father died when he was young and Denis had quite a colourful upbringing in the famous Greville Arms Hotel in Granard, which was owned at the time by relatives.

After school in Newbridge College he went to UCD, where he qualified as a civil engineer.

Denis's early career was with the civil engineering practice of the famous Nicholas O'Dwyer & Partners, who had a particular expertise in large township water and sewage developments.

After a successful career in O'Dwyer's practice, Denis went on to work for ESSO and specialised mainly in their network of main ESSO development. Subsequently he went on to develop a very modern hydrant scheme in preparation for the new Jet aircraft.

His years in prominent Dublin companies brought him quickly to the attention of the founders and directors of the fledgling Jones Group, which he joined as chairman.

He went on to support the expansion of the group in both Ireland and abroad. Denis never admitted defeat and would attempt to converse rapidly in French, Spanish or German when possible -- his sheer force of character and lively hand movements making up for any shortfalls. He was an essential figure in building the Jones Group up to a prominent place in Irish industry until his retirement in 1997.

Denis was a man of many talents. He was a confident authority on a range of music, including opera. He had a strong interest in the cultural life of Ireland and around the world. His shock of blonde hair was regularly seen in the theatre, the art galleries and, above all, the world of opera. He joined the Board of Opera Ireland (then the Dublin Grand Opera Society) and was part of the team that worked to modernise and improve it. He was a patron of the visual arts as well as collecting the best of Irish and international sculpture and ceramics.

During his retirement years, Denis travelled widely with his wife Ita, always with shrewd knowledge of where the best golf courses and opera theatres could be found. He was an accomplished golfer and a member of two clubs.

He is survived by his loving wife Ita and his two daughters Roisin and Christine.

Sunday Independent

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