RIP 18th December 2013.
My Dad Micheal Vaughan passed away from life on December 18th 2013 following a long battle with Dementia. It was hard to recognise my dyanamic hero in the final few years. Glimpses of his old self though rare, reminded us of the force of nature that he could be when he was in his prime.
At one stage Micheal opeated two hotels, a Garage, Post office and farmed a couple of acres!! He was at the same time president of the Irish Hotels Federation and Chairman of Lahinch development. From an early age Micheal inherited his father Miko’s interest in mechanics and engineering. Popular Mechanics was a magazine that arrived in the house and was thumbed to extinction!! Miko Vaughan had constructed a simple radio receiver which was popular with visitors to Lahinch in the early days of radio. The set would be placed by the window of Vaughans hotel to allow people on the street to enjoy the commentary. Miko also looked after the generator and acid battery network for the old Aberdeen Arms hotel. Micheal would assist him and he learned fast. He assisted the great Jimmy Williams in the Rural electrification of much of North Clare and was always on hand to neighbours and locals who needed something to be fixed or installed.
The family homestead of Vaughans was burned down by the ‘Tans in reprisal for Rinneeen. The hotel was not to be rebuilt for a number of years as times were tough. Eventually the new homestead was up and running and the renewal gave Micheal a sense of redevelopment that never really left him afterwards. His schooling was at Lahinch, Ennistymon and later St Marys Galway. He had always wished to learn law but the early death of his father and the poor state of the family fortunes kept him at home. It was to be to the benefit of Lahinch. Micheal set about learning all he could to survive in the war years. Self sufficiency was key to everything. He obnserved the pattern days that brought much commerce to Lahinch in the height of the summer. A bad day however, could decimate a year’s profit.
Micheal set about trying to improve the lot of the village. he became involved in politics at grass roots level in the local Fianna Fail cumann. many expected the young articulate passionate man to stand for the Dail. It was a shock to die hards when Micheal
introduced his good friend Dr Paddy Hillery to the comhairle dail ceantair in 1951 for selection as a candidate for Clare. Micheal became Paddy’s election agent. Micheal understood politics and had decided his place. He used his contacts and advocacy to lobby for development in Lahinch. an early co-operative effort to replace and extend the old promenade was well supported by local citizens and farming families around Lahinch. They rallied around the talisman and gave up evenings and hours to get the ‘prom’ constructed.
The success of that venture emboldened the young tireless Vaughan and he conjured up an all weather facility to bring families to Lahinch. The Lahinch Development Association was reformed and began a money raising drive. Fair days, Fetes, Auctions and fun days were all run with the intention of raising seed capital. political contacts persuaded Bord Failte to grant aid the construction. Michael Mc Namara was the contractor and it was his first major civil engineering job. The quality of the build was undoubted and still stands today. Jackie Donnelly RIP became the first manager of the Entertainment complex complete with Cinema/Theatre, Ballroom, Outdoor swimming pool and cafeteria. The Lemass era of the state was reaching out to the west. Lahinch became a mecca for family holidays and Micheal continued onwards, buying the Old Aberdeen Arms Hotel in the village from paddy Chambers and in a short time adding a further 30 rooms to bring it to 55 bedrooms. Moving with the times the rooms were “en suite” and there was ample parking.
Nationally Micheal was a great proponent of training for the industry and was a founder director of the council for Education, recruitment and Training – otherwise known as CERT. He chaired the Regional Tourism Board, Shannonside Tourism for over ten years. Following on from his successful term as President of the Irish Hotels Federation, he later Presided over the Irish hospitality and Catering Institute. Locally along with his beloved brother Kevin Vaughan, he attempted to establish a Co-Operative in North Clare to secure Agricultural development and processing of food. Micheal loved nothing better than being involved with active people. He was rarely found slouched on a chair or restful. His energy was always raw and seeking purpose.
Micheal married Philomena Goulding in 1950 and it was a long and fruitful marriage. Three girls and two boys ( twins ) issued and three of the five joined Micheal and Phil in the family business. Phil was the backbone of efforts. Micheal would play a great PR role and front of house duties. It was Phil who managed from behind the scenes and ensured order and standards. Philomena was trained by old Mrs Huggard in Waterville and later worked for Miss Nora and Mary Hayes of Limerick’s Ardhu House Hotel. The Hayes sisters admired Micheal’s stewarding of the Hotel Federation locally and they encouraged a liaison with their trusted manager Philomena!! Phil helped a less experienced hotelier, Micheal to ascend the steps of hospitality standards. Her cuisine was legendary and very popular at Vaughan;’s hotel. Later when the Aberdeen Arms was purchased, Eamonn Vaughan, Micheal’s brother, returned from Boyle in Co Roscommon and set about managing the hotel. Michel and Eamonn continued together until the Aberdeen Arms was sold in 1988.
During his career and life Michael promoted activities that could bring prosperity and enjoyment to the village. He adopted the surfing fraternity and gave them a home for the West Clare Surf Club in the 1970’s. He was instrumental in bringing the European surf championships to Lahinch in 1973. A less known involvement was his intervention to seek grant aid toe Lahinch Golf Club for the construction of the full 18 holes on the Castle Course. Bord Failte granted a significant sum as a result and it ensured the further success of the club.
Vaughan’s hotel was sold to local man Odhran O Looney in 1971 but had been renamed The Atlantic Hotel by then. A series of recessions in the 1970’s and early 1980’s made hotel keeping hard going in Lahinch. At 67 Micheal decided to retire due to poor health. His decision to seel was as impulsive as any of his great decisions in life! In the winter of 1988 he passed on the keys of the Aberdeen to Gerry Norton. He was rational and un emotive about giving up his life’s work. The truth was that no building ever defined Micheal. He could live out his life knowing that he had reached a Zenith and gladly let others continue the work. A similar approach was taken to the Lahinch Centre by the beach. Micheal had spend years and considerable amounts of his own cash in trying to bring a vision of a resort to Lahinch. He wanted a Marine exhibition and interactive displays. An indoor swimming pool was a must. The state was the only entity that could make it happen and he along with his fellow directors handed over the entire building and sea front lands to Shannon Development. There was a selflessness among Micheal and his vintage that would not allow themselves to profit when a greater good could be achieved.
It is disturbing sometimes to see the elements of greed and populism in Lahinch today and to remember the tenets of previous generations who made the resort great.
Personally, Micheal was well read and a great conversationalist. he enjoyed a good story and the telling of it. he was a regular contributor to radio and occasionally on television. He made a documentary about life in Lahinch in 1988 called My Own Place. he was often heard with Paraic Dolan, Donnacha Dualing , Ciaran Mc Mathuna and others. Michael had a warm disposition and was very engaging. An argument with Micheal was a memorable occasion and he could be very curt and abrupt. he had however a deep Catholic faith and his remorsefulness following an altercation would make amends for any intemperate actions.
As a family we all enjoyed a loving strong father who always had our best intentions at heart. We respected him and inherited many of his outstanding qualities. We are proud of his life and contributions and much saddened by his passing. At 91 years Micheal had lived out a life to the full and though he departed in anonymity due to his illness, we are happy for the repose of his soul. RIP Dad.