Mr Stephen Savage

A FORMER Downpatrick man, who played a key role in London’s Irish community, has passed away at the age of 84.

Stephen P Savage, who died in North Middlesex University Hospital on November 12 after a short illness, was a native of  Co Down, but had spent the greater part of his adult life in London. An only child, he had been predeceased by his parents some decades earlier.

His father also named Stephen, was from Dunturk, near Castlewellan, and had worked as a union organiser in New York City. When he returned to Co Down in the early 1930s he bought a farm at Magheralagan — some three miles from Downpatrick — and subsequently married Mary (Minnie) McKeown, from Ballynahinch. The young Stephen then grew up on the family farm.

From Loughinisland Primary School he went on to board  at St Colman’s College, Newry, and from there he proceeded to University College, Dublin, where he graduated with a degree in law. Stephen served Articles with a Belfast firm of solicitors, also attending law lectures at Queen’s University.

But, by the mid-1960s he had decided he did not wish to make a career in the law and migrated to London, where he pursued his many, mainly academic, interests for the rest of his life, while working as an administrator.  

His great enthusiasms included sociology, social psychology, general philosophy and ethics. Indeed only a week before his passing he had attended his regular Friday philosophical discussion group in Central London. County Down local history and that of London had an enduring fascination for him too; and he had an extensive knowledge of both.

From the 1970s to the 1990s, Stephen played a leading part in the activities of London’s Irish Community. He was involved with the work of the Council of Irish County Associations, including of course that of his native Co Down.  And he made an important contribution to London’s Irish Club in Belgravia, of which he was Chairman in 1990 and Hon Secretary in a number of earlier and later years.  But his focus was far from being purely ethnic.

For instance, he had been, in the 1970s and 1980s, a keen participant in the weekly debates of the world’s oldest debating club The Ancient Society Of Cogers, and he had also been for a time chairman of his local parish council.

Stephen was of a serious disposition and steady religious belief but he was far from being without a sense of humour.  Ever courteous and gentlemanly, he practised in daily life the ethics which was his prime philosophical interest. And he was generous with his extensive knowledge. When one writer, who had drawn extensively on his regional expertise, failed to credit him in the published work, he responded:  "I’m delighted to share everything I know."

Stephen Savage was a man of noble nature who will be greatly missed by all who knew him in London.  

We send our sincere condolences on his passing to his cousins in Ulster, especially the McKeowns, Savages, Kellys, McCormacks and Brennans; and to his former schoolmate, Larry Russell.

Eoin Murphy