Wednesday 25 April 2018

Exclusive: 'He wanted to sail past the Statue of Liberty one last time' - Son's poignant tribute to broadcasting legend Jimmy Magee

Jimmy Magee in New York
Jimmy Magee in New York
Jimmy Magee
Ger Keville

Ger Keville

Jimmy Magee's son Mark has paid a poignant tribute to his father after the legendary sports broadcaster and journalist passed away overnight.

Magee covered 12 World Cups and 13 Olympic Games (including two Winter Olympics) in an illustrious career with RTE and was also a columnist for the Sunday World since 1973 and during that time his work appeared in every single publication of the paper.

All across Ireland tributes have been pouring in for Magee, whose iconic voice and endearing personality made him such a well-liked personality in the country.

"This was a good man who only ever saw the good in people," his son Mark told Independent.ie.

"He never truly understood why people would spend their life trying to take someone down. He came from the background of 'if you have nothing good to say, don't say it at all'.

"His whole life was work but his work was sport. All conversations were around sport or travel."

8 September 2012; Iconic Irish broadcaster Jimmy Magee after signing his new book, Memory Man, for former Republic of Ireland soccer star Paul McGrath, who was a surprise shopper, in Eason OConnell Street, Dublin. Memory Man is available in all Eason stores nationwide and at easons.com. Jimmy Magee Book Signing, Easons, O'Connell Street, Dublin. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
6 September 2012; Broadcaster Jimmy Magee with Olympic Gold medal winner, Katie Taylor, who launched his autobiography "Memory Man". Havelock Suite, Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
8 September 2012; Iconic Irish broadcaster Jimmy Magee signs his new book, Memory Man, for former Republic of Ireland soccer star Paul McGrath, who was a surprise shopper, in Eason OConnell Street, Dublin. Memory Man is available in all Eason stores nationwide and at easons.com. Jimmy Magee Book Signing, Easons, O'Connell Street, Dublin. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
2 February 2015; Broadcaster and Journalist Jimmy 'The Memory Man' Magee with former Dublin great Jimmy Keaveney, right, and RTE presenter Des Cahill as they joined him to celebrate his 80th birthday at a party in the Goat Bar & Restaurant, Goatstown, Dublin. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
27 October 1980; Michael Robinson, with his Irish passport, in conversation with the journalist and broadcaster Jimmy Magee. Republic of Ireland, Soccer. Picture credit; Ray McManus/SPORTSFILE
16 July 2000; Jimmy Magee, commentates during the Leinster Minor Football Championship Semi Final Replay between Westmeath v Laois, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit; Ray McManus/SPORTSFILE
2 February 2015; Broadcaster and Journalist Jimmy 'The Memory Man' Magee with Paddy Cullen, goalkeeper with the All-Ireland Football winning Dublin team of 1974, who joined him to celebrate his 80th birthday at a party in the Goat Bar & Restaurant, Goatstown, Dublin. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
2 February 2015; Broadcaster and Journalist Jimmy 'The Memory Man' Magee with Ryle Nugent, Group Head of RTÉ Sport, who joined him to celebrate his 80th birthday at a party in the Goat Bar & Restaurant, Goatstown, Dublin. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
2 February 2015; Broadcaster and Journalist Jimmy 'The Memory Man' Magee with, former Olympic boxing silver medallist and now Cllr, Kenny Egan who joined him to celebrate his 80th birthday at a party in the Goat Bar & Restaurant, Goatstown, Dublin. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
2 February 2015; Broadcaster and Journalist Jimmy 'The Memory Man' Magee with his children, from left, Patricia, June and Linda who joined him to celebrate his 80th birthday at a party in the Goat Bar & Restaurant, Goatstown, Dublin. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
2 February 2015; Broadcaster and Journalist Jimmy 'The Memory Man' Magee with entertainer Brush Shields and former Meath football manager Sean Boylan who joined him to celebrate his 80th birthday at a party in the Goat Bar & Restaurant, Goatstown, Dublin. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
2 February 2015; Broadcaster and Journalist Jimmy 'The Memory Man' Magee with former Republic of Ireland soccer manager Brian Kerr who joined him to celebrate his 80th birthday at a party in the Goat Bar & Restaurant, Goatstown, Dublin. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
2 February 2015; Broadcaster and journalist Jimmy 'The Memory Man' Magee with boxers who between them hold 40 national boxing titles, from left to right, Darren O'Neill, 5, Mick Dowling, 8, Jim O'Sullivan, 10, Kenny Egan, 10, and Billy Walsh, 7, who joined him to celebrate his 80th birthday at a party in the Goat Bar & Restaurant, Goatstown, Dublin. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
27 March 2011; Republic of Ireland players Stephen Kelly, left, and captain Robbie Keane with sports commentator Jimmy Magee at the start of the Dublin leg of the John Giles Foundation, 'Walk of Dreams', in association with Three, Ireland's fastest growing mobile network. The fundraising walk which took place in 14 locations nationwide brought nearly 50,000 people from all over Ireland to raise funds for the beautiful game and the John Giles Foundation, to continue the growth of football. The Walk of Dreams took place in Letterkenny, Sligo, Castlebar, Galway City, Ennis, Limerick City, Tralee, Cork City, Athlone, Thurles, Waterford City, Enniscorthy, Dublin City and Dundalk. The John Giles Foundation was founded to use football as a vehicle for social change, to build community cohesion, increase participation and to improve health and education by providing funding to help football in clubs, schools and community groups in Ireland. Half of the funds raised will be retained by participating football clubs while the other half will go to the Foundation for community football projects in clubs, schools and community groups throughout Ireland. John Giles Foundation Walk of Dreams in association with Three. Fitzwilliam Street via Ringsend to Aviva Stadium. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
2 February 2015; Broadcaster and journalist Jimmy 'The Memory Man' Magee celebrates his 80th birthday at a party in the Goat Bar & Restaurant, Goatstown, Dublin. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
2 February 2015; Broadcaster and journalist Jimmy 'The Memory Man' Magee with Sean McGoldrick, Sports Journalist, Sunday World, left, Eddie Rowley, Showbiz Correspondent, Sunday World, and Eamon Gibson, Sports Editor at Sunday World, as he celebrates his 80th birthday at a party in the Goat Bar & Restaurant, Goatstown, Dublin. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE

Magee was born in New York on January 31, 1935 to Irish parents and was the first of four children. When he was three the family returned to Ireland to Greenore in Co Louth.

His last trip to his birthplace came in 2015 for his 80th birthday.

"In 2015 we went on a father and son cruise. He got a cruise from Southampton to New York. He sailed out from New York to Ireland as a little boy of three years and he wanted to reenact that before he died. He wanted to sail past the Statue of Liberty and he did that three years ago.

"I flew to New York and met him and we went on a little mini tour including trips to Boston and Washington."

Jimmy Magee
Jimmy Magee

Jimmy married childhood sweetheart Marie on October 11, 1955 and they had five children together -  Paul, Mark, Patricia, June and Linda. Sadly Marie died at the age of 54 in 1989 and their son Paul died of motor neurone disease in 2008.

"He was a great father. Sometimes he may miss birthdays as he would be working at major sporting events but he would always make up for it and attend our own sporting endeavours. He probably never recovered from losing his wife Marie and my brother Paul. Each Christmas we had our own family quizzes," added Mark.

"He always encouraged us to practise what we are good at concentrate on what you need to improve on.

He didn't have a huge social outlet. He avoided pubs and smoke when possible and he devoted a huge amount of time to his All Stars programme. He recognised people in the public eye could raise money for charity."

Jimmy's love for life and travelling is something he was keen to pass on to his own family.

"My daughter pulled a piece of paper out of her pocket today. It was a list dad gave her of where she needs to visit before she is 21," added Mark.

Despite being 82 years of age, Jimmy was still committed to working hard and, in his own eyes, never retired.

"As far as he was concerned, he never retired. He didn’t feel a barrier to age," continued Mark.

"He had heart problems from a long way back. The bottom line is his body wasn’t able to handle infections as he got older. He was not ill a long time and the hospital were surprised by his death in the end.

"He was admitted last Wednesday and this was the longest stint he did in hospital since his bypass operation 19 years ago."

Jimmy's voice will forever be remembered by sports fans in Ireland. He was the man who commentated on some of the most memorable sporting moments this nation has witnessed.

"I don't believe its coincidental that his commentary accompanied some of the most iconic sporting clips we often see on TV. I believe his voice added to them - John Treacy, Michael Carruth, Diego Maradona. An Iconic voice and a good man."

Jimmy's funeral mass will take place on Friday morning in Kilmacud.

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