Article

Frank Maguire: an appreciation

17 October 11

Tribute to the campaigning solicitor, born 4 October 1955; died 17 September 2011

by Robert Maguire

Since he died on Saturday 17 September, after a long struggle with cancer, many deserved tributes have been paid to Frank by clients, colleagues, legal practitioners, politicians and trade union leaders, all affirming his passion and single-minded determination in the cause of justice and fair treatment, particularly for those suffering from industrial diseases due to negligence on the part of employers and for workers’ rights.

For his clients Frank was a resolute and formidable advocate, campaigning successfully for changes in the law where it ill-served those who were entitled to be protected by it.

The strength of his convictions, intellect and argument led to major changes in legislation. They include: the Rights of Relatives to Damages (Mesothelioma) (Scotland) Act 2007, which ended the injustice of asbestos victims foregoing compensation while alive so that their families could claim for damages after their death; the Damages (Scotland) Act 2011, which brought a fairer way to calculate damages after the death of a partner; and the Damages (Asbestos-related Conditions) (Scotland) Act 2009, for the rights of pleural plaque victims, in which he was a prominent figure and campaigner but which is currently being contested by the insurance industry in the Supreme Court.

And he was a campaigner to the last. Remarkably, during his illness, he and his wife Fiona, pioneered the introduction into Europe of a new immunotherapy treatment for brain tumours, and while they knew it was unlikely to benefit him, they hoped it would benefit others.

Frank was born in Glasgow on 4 October 1955, the Feast of St Francis. But for this coincidence he would have been christened Thomas, not Francis Thomas. Interestingly, there were to be further Franciscan coincidences in his life, particularly when he and Fiona purchased a hilltop property overlooking the towns of Santa Maria degli Angeli and Assisi, towns where St Francis undertook his mission.

Frank was the son of Robert Maguire and Mary Tanham, the fourth of seven children. His mother, brother and sisters survive him. After expressing an interest in becoming a priest, he studied at St Vincent’s College (Langbank) and St Mary’s College, Blairs, Aberdeen. After completing his Highers, he studied philosophy and theology at the Pontificia Università Gregoriana in Rome, completing a Bachelor of Philosophy degree.

Having decided that he did not wish to become a priest, he studied law at the University of Aberdeen and, on completing his LLB, he became a trainee with Robin Thompson & Partners in Edinburgh. The firm subsequently became Thompsons Scotland and Frank its managing partner. Thompsons has won three national law awards in recent years and Frank himself Solicitor of the Year 2010. During his career he represented miners during the miners’ strikes, victims of the Piper Alpha disaster, haemophiliacs infected with hepatitis C and HIV (instigating the Penrose inquiry), and the too many victims of asbestos exposure, whose circumstances and fate concerned him deeply.

Frank, from his earliest days, had a keen interest in sport. He was a dedicated distance runner (which he kept up until terminal illness prevented it), played football for Spartans FC, became Scottish Windsurfing Champion and a Master Yachtsman. Sailing the Inner and Outer Hebrides with Fiona was to become an abiding passion with him. He completed his last voyage in June this year, before illness prevented him taking to the sea again. To the surprise of his wife and sons, he also took up snowboarding at the age of 50 so that he could join his sons on the slopes. Frank, as his wife, sons and colleagues will testify, always enjoyed a challenge. If he worked hard, he played even harder.

Less well known about Frank was the fact that he was an avid reader with a keen interest in ancient history and astronomy. He particularly enjoyed reading poetry and he also wrote poetry. He also played the harmonica. His enjoyments were often simple, like trundling an old Lamborghini tractor up and down the olive groves in Bettona, raking the soil or collecting crates of olives. Even less well known is his sponsorship and funding, along with Fiona, of a Hospital Clinic in Gulu, Uganda, dedicated to combating malaria and AIDS, particularly among children, including former child soldiers and rape victims.

Few men could have achieved as much as Frank did without a strong anchorage in their lives. For Frank his anchor was his family, Fiona his partner and companion in everything he endeavoured to achieve, and Calum, Matthew, Luke and John, his love and inspiration. As he struggled with his illness, they struggled with him and they did so as they had always done, with love, honesty and good humour – and humour was very important to him. There can be no doubt that Frank would affirm that, no matter how remarkable his achievements, his most precious legacy is, as it always has been, his wife and sons. And while he would have said that he was just an ordinary man, he was, as we can all testify, a rare and most extraordinary individual.


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