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Saturday 24 February 2018

Tributes paid to late Alfie Banks - a 'person of immense ability'

Judge Keenan Johnston paid tribute to the late Alfie Banks and his wife Mary at a recent sitting of Sligo Circuit Court:

Alfie Banks died on September 8th of this year at the age of 93 years. He died on the 63rd anniversary of his marriage to the late Mary Daly. Alfie and Mary had six children, Gerard, Mary, Eugene, Edel, Catherine and Alan.

Alfie was born in Kellystown and went to Summerhill College. Following his graduation from secondary school, he went to work with Howley and Armstrong solicitors.

This was in the mid-1940s and at that time Ireland was a very poor country. Alfie had always wanted to become a solicitor but was unable to get indentures in Sligo. It was arranged that he could become indentured to the firm of Arthur O'Hagan Solicitors in Dublin. Alfie moved to Dublin for a number of months but being the countryman he was, he found life in the city incompatible with his love of country life.

Eugene tells me that Alfie didn't like the hustle and bustle of the city which I find quite extraordinary given his enormous capacity for work over the years and his ability to multi-task. IN any event, Alfie returned to Sligo and was given a temporary position which was supposed to last two weeks with the firm of Rochford Gallagher and co solicitors in Tubbercurry.

Those two weeks turned into 47 years of dedicated professional service not only to his employers but more importantly to his clients. I think it would be fair to say that Alfie and indeed many of the law clerks of his generation including the late Ron Nairin of Argue and Phibbs and the late Andy Barry of Hegarty and Armstrong were more proficient and better versed in the law than many highly qualified solicitors and indeed counsel both junior and senior.

To a certain extent, both Alfie and his late wife Mary were blow ins to Ballymote in that Alfie came from Kellystown near Strandhill and Mary came from Cork.

However I think it is fair to say that they became stalwarts of the community in Ballymote through the enormous work they did for the betterment of the community.

Alfie was actively involved in many non-legal enterprises in Ballymote including the community pitch, community games, Loftus Hall, the local drama club, the Ceoltas groups, Meals on Wheels, and the annual sale of work, to name but a few.

Everything Alfie did, he did with enthusiasm, hard work and dedication. There were no half measures, every angle was covered to ensure that every event was a success.

Allied to this, Alfie and his later wife Mary did an enormous amount of charitable work in a quiet unassuming way and in respect of which they never sought the limelight or thanks. Alfie engaged in these activities simply because it was the right thing to do.

He was always excellent company and enjoyed nothing better than a good old fashioned sing song where his rendition of a piece from the South Pacific such as 'Some Enchanted Evening' would not alone entertain a crowd but like the son, enchant it. His musical tastes were diverse ranging from traditional Irish of which he was a huge fan to songs like 'Rawhide' where his ability to provide the necessary sound effects like the cracking of the whip never ceased to entertain and amaze.

The professionalism and dedication which Alfie applied to his community activities was equally evident in his work with Rochford Gallagher.

He had an encyclopaedic knowledge of conveyancing and in particular land registry practice. He was the go to person if you had a query concerning land registry requisitions or any other title matters. He always gave of his knowledge generously without looking for any favour in return.

He was the only man I knew who could draft a conversion of title from possessive or equitable to absolute, which would invariably be accepted by the land registry without any requisitions. In this respect he was the only lawyer I know and I say this with no disrespect to all the lawyers present who understood fully the complexities of equities and how they affect title.

He was also a very steady hand when it came to dealing with litigation. He always tried to talk sense to his clients if he thought they were being unreasonable and to encourage them to settle on terms that were fair and equitable.

This doesn't mean he shied away from a contest, when he felt that the rights of his client were not being sufficiently or properly vindicated, however you knew that when he was standing his ground on some particular issue that there was merit in that stance.

By his work ethic and ability, Alfie has established amongst the legal profession a reputation as a fair and reasonable person whose views commanded both respect and admiration.

Indeed it could be that Alfie in his practice of law followed the advice of the great lawyer Edmund Burke when he said 'it is not what a lawyer tell me I may do, but what humanity, reason and justice tell me I ought to do.'

Following his retirement, Alfie continued to be involved in community affairs and was a constant beneficial presence in Ballymote. His wisdom and experience allowed him to continue to offer salient sound advice to those who sought it.

As I've already said, he was a person of immense ability who would have had no difficulty in qualifying as a solicitor. His death leaves an enormous void in the lives of not only his family but also of the legal community and indeed the community of Ballymote.

In his later years, Alfie took great pride in the fact that his granddaughter Caoimhe qualified as a solicitor and now practices with the firm of Walter Beatty and Co in Dublin.

It is wonderful to see that the high standards which Alfie set are now being emulated by Caoimhe who has established an excellent reputation as a lawyer and I want to wish her continued success.

To Alfie's family, friends and colleagues I extend on my behalf and on behalf of the court my deepest sympathies.

Both he and Mary were shining examples of what a good marriage is all about, of the benefits of working hard, of good parenthood and high standards both in practical terms and moral terms. May he and Mary rest in peace.

Sligo Champion

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