Architect, author and campaigning politician Jack Fitzsimons remembered

Jack Fitzsimons, the campaigning politician, architect and author of 'Bungalow Bliss' was fondly remembered on RTE's Liveline radio programme today. Jack, who was a native of Kilbeg near Kells, passed away in November 2014. This was his obituary that appeared in the Meath Chronicle.


A man who made a difference to the lives of so many, to the lives of his family and extended family, and to the lives of the most vulnerable at local and national level, was remembered at his funeral Mass in St Colmcille’s Church, Kells, on Thursday last.

Former urban and county councillor, and senator, Jack Fitzsimons, of Kenlis Lodge, passed away peacefully on Tuesday of last week, aged 84. While in declining health for some time, he died at Our Lady’s Hospital, Navan, after a short illness.

Not only was he a campaigning politician, but also a designer, author, painter, poet, and photographer. As an architect, his ‘Bungalow Bliss’ went to 12 printings, and was used as a bible for many Irish people building homes for decades from the 1970s.

Fr Liam Malone, CC, Kells, celebrating the funeral Mass, said that Jack Fitzsimons was enjoying peace at last, after a live well lived and well served. He was assisted by Fr Willie Fitzsimons, a school friend of the deceased.

Jack Fitzsimons was a native of Kilbeg, where he was born in April 1930, one of a family of six of John and Annie Fitzsimons of Gravelstown. Four of the family, three sons and a daughter, survived to adulthood.

In 1968, he married Anne Grace, having earlier opened a business, Kells Art Studios. His first edition of ‘Bungalow Bliss’ featured 20 house designs; the 12th printing of it in 2000 featured 260 designs, along with planning advice and information on rules and regulations. Deceased was a Fellow of the Faculty of Architects and Surveyors; a Fellow of the Construction Surveyors Institute; a Fellow of the Faculty of Building; a Fellow of the Irish Architects Association; and a Fellow of the Institute of Professional Designers.

He published many other books, including the 286 page ‘The Parish of Kilbeg’ in 1974; ‘Democracy Be Damned’ in 1989; ‘Thatched Houses in Co Meath’ in 1990; ‘Bungalow Bashing’ (1990); ‘Coursing Ban Be Damned’ (1994). Other works were ‘Peeping through the Reeds’, ‘Call me a Dreamer’, and ‘By the Banks of the Borora’, in which he moved into fiction, and ‘The Plains of Royal Meath’, looking at the county’s townlands and placenames, in 1979. He edited a quarterly publication, ‘The Meath Monitor’.

He was working on three more books before he died - a short history of the development of Bungalow Bliss and its social context; reflections on religion; and a work of fiction.

Appointed a peace commissioner by the Minister for Justice in 1974, his first foray into politics came in 1979, when he was selected by Fianna Fail to run in the local elections of that year, when Patrick McKenna retired. Elected to Kells Urban Council, he was re-elected in 1985, becoming chairman of the UDC after that year’s election. Nominated by the Irish Architects Society to run for the industrial and commercial panel in the Seanad Elections in 1981, he won a seat there in 1983, one of three from the Meath-Westmeath constituency elected to Seanad Eireann in that year, with Donie Cassidy of Castlepollard, and Michael Lynch of Oldcastle. He was a member of the senate until 1989.

During these years, he was a member of the Meath Co Library Committee; chairman of the urban council’s ancient monuments advisory committee; committee member for the establishment of a Meath county museum; chairman of Kilbeg Cemetery Committee; member of Kells UDC land committee; and chairman of Kells Swimming Pool fundraising committee.

Jack Fitzsimons resigned from Fianna Fail following his defeat in the 1989 Senate Elections, saying he was only supported by half of the Fianna Fail councillors in Meath. He received only 34 first preference votes and believed half of these came from independents. He believed that his stance on enclosed hare coursing, housing, Travellers’ and women’s rights, employment and the development of a pluralist society lost him the support of councillors, particularly Fianna Fail members.

He left the party, saying he had no interest in being nominated to the Seanad by the Taoiseach (Charles Haughey), as he was not interested in getting a seat in that way. He also resigned his UDC and VEC seats, as he had been elected to them as a member of Fianna Fail.

Deceased was elected to Meath County Council as an independent candidate, and was a member of a very controversial council until 1999, where he was outspoken on issues such as county development plans and Travellers’ issues, offering at one stage to give up his seat to a Traveller representative over the Navan Halt site issue.

A project very close to him was the restoration of the Pauper’s Graveyard at the Tower of Lloyd, and the annual ceremony there at Christmas to remember the dead.

As a communion reflection at his funeral, his daughter Cora, read ‘The Paupers Cemetery’, a poem written by Louis Collins in 1983, to commemorate the dead there.

A frequent correspondent with the Meath Chronicle, he wrote his final letter to Market Square just two weeks before his passing.

Fr Malone recalled the colourful character with his own unique style of dressing, who often has a placard in his hands, 'at one time walking the 40 miles to Dublin in a march organised by him against hare coursing. In 1994, he ran for the European Parliament elections on an anti-bloodsport ticket.

'His personal interest in local affairs in county affairs and in national affairs, his passion for the rights of others, led him to become a public representative as a town councillor, as a county councillor and as a member of Seanad Eireann,' Fr Malone said. 'He was fearless in all of the chambers and always followed his beliefs and passions.'

Even in his final days in hospital, he had a file of a manuscript he was working on brought to him, working closely with his son, Lloyd, assisting and guiding him.

He is survived by his wife, Anne; family, Cora, Lana, Lloyd, Emla and Ken; grandchildren, Lorcan, Eabha, Ruby, Corinne, Louis and Conor; sons-in-law, nieces, nephews, relatives and friends.

The funeral took place from St Colmcille’s Church to St Colmcille’s Cemetery. The attendance included the leas-cathaoirleach of Meath Co Council, Cllr Trevor Golden, and the former county manager, Frank O’Brien, as well as past and present councillors. In the offertory procession, former councillor Oliver Sweeney brought up the Kells Town Council chain of office as a symbol of Jack Fitzsimons’ public service, while books and family photographs were also part of the ceremony. He was remembered as a loving husband, adored grandfather, much loved uncle and relative and true friend. Tributes were paid to the deceased by the leader of Fianna Fail, Michael Martin, and Senator Thomas Byrne.