Lemass, Frank (1911–74), general manager and director of CIÉ, president of the Irish Management Institute, was born 13 September 1911 in Dublin, youngest son among four sons and three daughters of John T. Lemass, hatter and outfitter, of 3 Capel St., Dublin, and Frances Lemass (née Phelan), horticulturist and florist, of Kilkenny. Educated (1924–30) at Belvedere College, Dublin, he went straight from school to train as an articled clerk (1930–35) with accountants Craig Gardner & Co. While working there he also lectured at the School of Commerce in Rathmines, Dublin. Qualifying as a chartered accountant (1935) with a gold medal in his final examinations, he then worked for a short time as an internal auditor at Henry Ford & Sons, before returning to Craig Gardner & Co., where he remained till 1940.
In 1940 he joined the Dublin United Tramway Co. and was later made company secretary and general manager when the firm became the Dublin United Transport Co. (DUTC) (1941). When the DUTC was amalgamated with the Great Southern Railway (1945) he was appointed assistant general manager, and later general manager (1946) of the new company CIÉ (his brother Seán Lemass (qv) was then minister for industry and commerce). With more than 20,000 employees CIÉ was the biggest employer in the state. Due to financial problems the company was nationalised in 1950 and he served as chief officer for a period (1950–53) before returning to the post of general manager (1953–70).
During his time as general manager the company continued to suffer from severe financial difficulties, especially on the railways. In 1956 CIÉ requested a review of public transport and recommended that the government force traffic back on to the railways. However, that same year the Department of Finance issued a memorandum that claimed railways were outmoded and had little future. After these differences of opinion the Beddy report (1957) recommended the closure of 65 per cent of the rail network. Although CIÉ were not in favour of ‘pruning’ the network, the refusal of the government to force traffic back on to the railway and to subsidise the company at this time meant that closures were inevitable.
Following his own recommendations to the board (1958), Lemass oversaw the closures in January 1959 of the railway lines from Sallins, Co. Kildare, to Tullow, Co. Carlow, and from Harcourt St., Dublin, to Shanganagh, Co. Dublin. Having also recommended (1958) the closure of the canal barges, he oversaw the ending of this service in 1960. Over the next seven years he supervised the closure of rail links that included Macmine Junction to Bagenalstown (1960), Waterford to Tramore (1960), the West Clare Railway (1961), the Cork, Bandon & South Coast Line (1961), Portlaoise to Kilkenny (1963), New Ross to Macmine Junction (1963) and Thurles to Clonmel (1967).
In addition to the rationalisation of the company there was also the more positive aspect of much badly needed investment in new rolling stock: in 1948 CIÉ had nearly 500 carriages with an average age of fifty-one years. In 1950 Lemass was responsible for the purchase of £2.4 million of rolling stock. Furthermore, between 1953 and 1963 he oversaw the conversion from steam power to diesel. In 1970 he retired as general manager of CIÉ while retaining his position as a member of the board.
Apart from his career in CIÉ he was involved with both the Institute of Transport, becoming the first Irish person to hold the office of president (1964–5), and the Irish Management Institute (IMI). A member of the IMI since 1954, he was elected to the council in 1961. In 1967 he became vice-chairman (1967–9), later becoming chairman (1969–71), vice-president (1971–2), and president (1972–4). In the latter capacity he co-chaired the Founding Fund with J. F. Dempsey (qv) for the construction of the National Management Centre in Sandyford. Eventually bringing in £1.2 million, this fund was the largest sum ever raised voluntarily from Irish business at the time (1974).
Despite retiring from CIÉ he remained involved in business through directorships of companies that included Arklow Pottery, the Belvedere Trust, Fitzwilliam securities, Fitzwilton plc, Player Wills Ireland, Lyon Group Ireland, and Ostlana Iompair Éireann. He served as chairman of Lombard and Ulster Banking Ireland, British Leyland Ireland, Irish Offshore Oil, and Coiste an Asgard. He was also deputy chairman of Ulster Bank (1972–4).
An accomplished sportsman, he played rugby for Old Belvedere RFC First XV in its very first season (1930–31) during which the team was runner-up in the Junior League. During the early 1930s he also rowed for Neptune rowing club in both junior and senior eights. In later life he was both a keen golfer and sailor. As well as sitting on the management committee of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, he was a member of Milltown Golf Club, Portmarnock Golf Club, the Royal Irish Yacht Club, and the National Yacht Club. He was commodore of the latter from 1959 to 1964. In 1964 his Dragon class boat, Aletta, represented Ireland at the Olympics. He lived at Greenfield, Glenageary Hill, Co. Dublin, and later at Seabank Court, Sandycove, and died 24 June 1974 at home in Sandycove.
He married (1937) Mary Rose (‘Moll’) MacDonagh of Dublin, daughter of Joseph MacDonagh (qv), co-founder of what became MacDonagh Boland Insurance Brokers, and Margaret MacDonagh. They had one son and two daughters.