Sunday 21 January 2018

Charles Dean

An architect and engineer with the ESB from the early years of the State had a key role in projects

CHARLES Dean, who has died at the age of 102, was an architect and engineer with the Electricity Supply Board from the early years of the formation of the State. His great love of motoring kept him driving until he was 100 and he was the proud owner of nearly 50 cars during the course of his life.

Charles was the son of James Dean, from Aberdeenshire in Scotland, who came to Ireland at the turn of the 20th Century to carry on his business as a merchant tailor. James married Annie Short from Dublin, and their only child, Charles, was born at their home over the family business at 35 Wicklow Street in 1907.

Charles's earliest memories included a visit to Scottish relatives with his mother in 1912; being told of the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914, and of seeing clashes between the IRA and British forces outside the family's home on the North Circular Road during the 1916 Easter Rising.

When Charles's father died in 1917, he and his mother moved to Clontarf and he attended the O'Connell School in North Richmond Street.

His first architectural work experience was with Truman's Architectural Services firm in Molesworth Street, now remembered by a restaurant of the same name close by. Over the succeeding years he qualified as a civil engineer and an architect. He was very well-respected by, and he had a great affinity with, all of the different groups in the building industry.

His early professional experience was with Foley, Sullivan and Co, followed by the West Wicklow Health Board before joining the ESB in the early Forties. His role involved diverse architectural projects across the ESB system and required extensive travel visiting district offices and other locations. He had a great capacity to get on with people in the different parts of the organisation and even six months before he died, he was still able to recall the names of most of the head office and district staff he dealt with over the years since the Forties.

He was a keen tennis player and met his wife, Edith Virtue, while playing tennis in the local club. They married in 1932 and had three sons. He also played golf up to his 70s and was a member of the St Anne's, Clontarf and Rathfarnham clubs over the years.

He loved all things mechanical including motor bikes and cars. He took part in motorbike trials and had 49 cars over the course of his life. His first car was an open two-seater Swift and he continued to drive right up to the age of 100 when he had to move into a nursing home due to his failing health.

He served in the LSF (Local Security Force) during the Second World War, which allowed him to continue to drive his motorbike in spite of petrol rationing. He was called out to assist in fighting the fire that burned down the St Anne's Estate mansion in Raheny in 1943.

He was a lover of both jazz and classical music, playing both the piano and banjo in the local tennis club band as a young man.

Charles retired from the ESB with the rank of divisional engineer, civil works department, in 1973. His wife had died a year earlier, in 1972 and he looked after himself, living on his own for the next 35 years. After retiring, he regularly visited his eldest son in Johannesburg, South Africa, had the opportunity to take family holidays by the Indian Ocean near Durban and to travel in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and Mozambique. He loved Africa and was invigorated by the variety of experiences he had there.

He enjoyed the company and support of his neighbours, extended family, colleagues, friends and particularly young people, including his grandchildren, right up until the end of his life and always enjoyed a good debate about current affairs in which he never lost interest.

Charles's wife Edith died in 1972 and he is survived by his three sons, Clive, Neil and Conor, his 10 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

Sunday Independent

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