KathleenO’Hanlon: obituary

Kathleen O’Hanlon 1914 – 2005 – Her Funeral Oration

My mum was born Catherine Josephine Hoey on 9th June 1914 in Adavoyle. To put her long life in context, that was the year WW1 broke out. She was one of twin daughters to Hugh Hoey and Mary Catherine Dowdall. 

Her twin Mary, died as an infant.  Her mother died when Kathleen, as she was always known, was seven or eight.  She moved to Clontygora to live with her aunt Ellen (generally known as ‘the Aunt’ in a style not dissimilar to ‘the Godfather’) and her grandfather, Matthew Dowdall.  Her father Hugh was earning their living in
Newfoundland and subsequently died there.

 At the age of four she suffered a burst appendix with peritonitis and was on death’s door for a long time with little prospect of recovery. However, she completed her studies at boarding schools in Lurgan and Warrenpoint before going to Craiglockhart in Scotland to train as a teacher.

She started her teaching career in Bradford and remained there throughout the war. Throughout all of this she had retained contact with a certain Danny O’Hanlon of Clontygora.

On her return after the war, she resumed living with the Aunt who by this stage had moved to Omeath to look after the Mallon family of Teenie, Bridie, Rose and Jimmy. At the same time she took up a teaching post in Cloghogue Primary School. 

Danny O’Hanlon appeared on the horizon – again having pahveed round much of England and Wales to support his brothers and sisters who also had been orphaned at a tragically young age.

They married in February 1955: they would – had they both survived – have celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary this year – and in 1956 ‘yours truly’ was born. Tragically Danny died just six years later leaving her a widow which she remained, despite several suitors pursuing her – offers she declined: Danny was irreplaceable as husband and father.

Married life had taken her from my ‘noble’ birth, in a flat in Narrow Water Castle, to the shop in Bridge Street via Cloughreagh Park – the latter secured for them by a local politician Paddy Trainor, known popularly as ‘Paddy the Post’, whose granddaughter, Kate, subsequently married Donal – my good self!

She settled into life as a teacher – was  promoted to Vice Principal – and enjoyed travel, Bridge and a wide circle of good friends – the house and shop in Bridge Street now populated by Kathleen, Teenie, Rose and Donal.  In the 70’s she moved to Hawthorn Hill and on retiring in 1977, far from deciding to lapse into old age, actively denied its authority and became the lady you knew and loved and the reason you are here today.

She was Matriarch to a wide number of family branches including the Mallons, Dowdalls, Conways and Hoeys and she particularly adored her two grandchildren Emma and Daniel.

The circumstances of her death you are mostly aware of: after a morning of driving to Mass, berating traffic wardens, instructing bank officials and eye checks she died in the arms of her daughter-in-law, Kate, and her grandchildren, Emma and Daniel.  She absolutely, literally enjoyed life to the full,  right to the final moment.

She had, of course, some idiosyncrasies. On purchasing a ticket for the local Drama Festival she assumed this gave her transferable access to any seat she set her eye on, generally confounding stewards and genuinely entitled occupants.

She had a long-standing cat and mouse game with the traffic wardens – for whom we really should pray in the bidding prayers.  She could generally argue her way out of anything and should a ticket be issued and the culprit warden not be at hand, she would head for the police station and pathetically hobble in, walking stick in hand, to reduce on-duty constables to tears.  They never bested her.  On St Patrick’s Day last year she drove down to view the parade from the comfort of her car.  Seeing a coned-off area beside the parade route she got out of the car, removed the cones and sat back to watch the spectacle.  A police car drove in and parked in front of her.  She calmly got out of the car, tapped them on the window and politely asked if they could move off as they were blocking the view! Obligingly, they did!

She had a new lease of life in the 80’s with the replacement of an arthritic knee with a prosthetic one and was an early success of a pioneering technology due to her strict adherence to the exercise regime including vigorous walking, exploiting the flat surfaces and dry interiors of our local churches as free locations for performing circuits.  To those not in the know she appeared as a slightly fanatical devotee of the Stations of the Cross. She also gained much insight into non-churchworthy activity witnessed wherever she exercised.

She invented a simple and cost-free method of converting dangerous stairs into something safer.  She simply turned around and walked down backwards – a forward fall being of only inches.  She most publicly did this when in the Town Hall – oblivious and uncaring of occasional odd stares.

Years before any of us heard of recycling she cut up Kleenex and other boxes for shopping lists and sent weekly clippings from the Newry Reporter to Teenie, now in London, in the BT and bank envelopes cellotaped and re-addressed.

Her needlecraft was fabulous. After her recent weight loss she had deployed her old, mechanical Singer sewing machine to convert all her clothes and had completed about a half of her substantial and very fashionable wardrobe.

Her soups and stews were out of this world and she reversed the usual trend of Meals-on-Wheels for a 91 year old by arriving at our doorstep on a weekly basis with saucepans of excellent grub.

She was a database of historical and genealogical information, in particular of Killeen, Clontygora and Cloghoge.  She often got calls from her much loved friend and in-law Gerard Trainor regarding clients and opponents.

She put her sound, lucid mind down to Bridge and the daily Independent crossword, a regime I recommend to you all.

She was a wonderful mother to me, more than I deserved, and she has broken many hearts by leaving us.

Donal O’Hanlon

24th July 2005

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