This page contains eulogies given at Funeral Masses in Holy Name so that the lives of the deceased may become better known and appreciated.
Danuta Hanka Podstawka whose Requiem Mass took place on 5 January 2022
Hanka was born on the 29th on November 1929. She was born in the Polish countryside where she spent her childhood. The war was spent in Osiny, out of harm’s way, and she married Henryk, her first husband and moved to Gliwice, where she had my mum, Ewa, and my aunt Malgosia. The family moved to Warsaw, and my Gran worked as a Chemistry technician. She got divorced and married a second time and even retired before I even met her! My family moved to South Africa when I was a baby, and despite the distance, my gran remained a big part of our lives.
My first memory of her was when she visited us in South Africa. She took really long visits, and often stayed with us for several months. I remember her enjoying the sun, sunbathing with a leaf on her nose. I remember being about 5 or 6 when she helped out in our tuck shop. I remember feeling really pleased when she would call me to the front of the queue and hand me a huge box of sweets!! It was the only time I was ever allowed to cut in the tuck shop line!
Hanka was a lady that loved looking after herself. She not only spent a many an hour topping up her tan, but she also had a very strict exercise routine that was never allowed to be broken, and many a time I remember being woken up to the slap slap of her legs as she was doing her bicycle exercises upside down on the bed next door!! Ela and I would never enjoy sharing a room with Babcia when we went on holiday!
Hanka knew all about being fit and healthy- she had loads of health advice to share – don’t sit on the cold floor, don’t sniff your nose, don’t carry heavy things. Dying your hair was particularly bad for you, and one time, when she tried to use a natural hair dye and her hair went orange, she refused to dye it again as you could not dye your hair more than once every 8 weeks! So she remained with the orange hair!
Another memory I have is when she would pick me up from school. Her enthusiastically shouting my name and waving wildly embarrassed my so much that I pretended I didn’t notice, making the waving and shouting even wilder!
Hanka loved being with people – she was an extrovert to the end. Even when dementia stole all her memories, she loved to sit at the entrance to the care home, so she could greet and smile at everyone who came in and out. That was always her favourite place, and the spot she was always in whenever we came to visit.
She will be remembered in my mind as the glamorous granny, always keen to meet people, giving you strange health advice, and giving you that bright wide smile every time you visited. (BABCIA HANIA)
Terry McMillan who died on 21 September and whose funeral took place on Friday 2 October 2020
Teresa Harrison was born on March 2nd 1933, the eldest daughter of seven children, to Marjorie and Norman Harrison. She was big sister to Roderick, Angela, Nicholas, Gabrielle, Francesca and Vincent. She attended La Sagesse Convent School from Kindergarten until Sixth Form. She was a very good student and went on to study Physiotherapy in Newcastle. Terry, as everyone fondly knew her, worked at The Percy Hedley School, The Green in Wallsend and for many years at Hunters Moor Hospital. It was here that she met some very dear colleagues who became her lifelong friends – Di Walton, Colin Peacock, Carol Lurie and Rachel Cundall, just to name a few. She was a compassionate and hard-working physio inspiring a younger generation to follow in her footsteps.
Terry met Stan McMillan at South Northumberland Tennis Club at a social event in the early fifties and went on to marry him and have four daughters. Stan was a handsome athletic and hardworking husband who went along with his wife’s need to help others and occasionally introduced her in his own style….. “Meet my wife, veteran do-gooder and lame dog collector.”
Terry was a daughter, a wife, a sister, a Mum in a million to Gillian, Vicki, Lucy and Kate, an inspirational Grandma to Laura, Ellie, Veronica, Grace, Jacob, Alice, Neil, Anya and Jonny and Great Grandma, known as Blue Grandma to Charlie, Evie and Lottie. She was a friend to many people of all ages, a colleague, a mentor and a seamstress; smocking dresses, making bridesmaids and first Holy Communion dresses, quilts, curtains, fancy dress costumes, bunting and tapestrie; a knitter of sweaters, baby cardies, tea cosies, hats, gloves and scarves for Uncle Tom Cobbly and All. She was an amazing cook and baker, regularly feeding the five thousand. Terry loved her gardens at Hauxley and at Bemersyde Drive knowing all the names including the Latin names of flowers and wildflowers. She loved and could immediately identify the many birds, which came into the gardens. Terry was particularly partial to dogs, and had a succession of beloved spaniels almost to the very end. Terry loved to iron everything for herself, her family and her neighbours as their families grew.
Our family is creative and musical, which resulted in Mum attending numerous performances all over the North and further afield; she listened to us sing and play, watched us dance and act, always beaming with pride and delight.
Terry lived at her warm and welcoming home in Jesmond for over fifty years. Terry’s special place, though, was Hauxley where she went to from childhood with her sisters and brothers. She created at Hauxley a wonderful seaside retreat that was enjoyed so very much by all our family and friends. She enjoyed many memorable hours picking coal on the beach at Hauxley, collecting salmon and lobsters from the fishermen and cooking them for us all. She encouraged us to appreciate the sea and the beautiful Northumberland coastline.
Terry made an annual traipse to New York for years. She always said she dreaded the actual journey but did it anyway because it was “a means to an end”, to Gillian’s family – usually travelling at Thanksgiving and almost every year after Veronica and then Neil came along. Mum understood the importance of making memories and she did that for her family in New York too. Mum loved cooking and joining in with the big Thanksgiving turkey dinner.
Terry was a real ‘people person’ with an amazing sense of humour. She had friends of all ages; her door was literally always open at both 5 Bemersyde Drive and 20 Low Hauxley. Throughout her life and even in retirement she would have an endless stream of friends dropping in and kids in the street would come over to ask Terry questions about their pet or a particular bird or flower, to eat her home baked goodies or take a snack from the snack basket in the hall. She encouraged her family to be whatever they wanted to be and never put any obstacles in our way, in fact she did whatever it took to make our paths easier.
Terry leaves behind her a huge legacy. She taught us how to love, how to stand up for ourselves and gave us strength. She will be so dearly missed but is now at peace having left us all with love in our hearts and this love will carry.
From Vincent Donohoe:
My Brother, Austin Donohoe (26 May 1952 – 13 March 2018)
Welcome and thank you all for attending this Requiem Mass for my brother. We grew up in a town called Johnstone, about 12 miles south of Glasgow, with an Irish father Austin and Scottish mother Margaret. Both old fashioned but fantastic parents.
We attended St. David’s RC Primary School, where Austin was the school ‘Dux’, which means Top Boy at the “11 Plus”. He was however, already Top Boy with our mother and nothing, ever was going to change that. Undisputed No.1 Son in our home.
Austin would have been about 13 and I was around 10, when we were out at a local Loch which had frozen over. He couldn’t swim, I could just about. Off he went despite my protests across the ice – he wasn’t exactly what you would call skinny, and of course straight through the ice he went, about 10 yards from the bank.
He’s shouting, spluttering and clearly drowning. I had no option but go in and get him. Believe me, if there was another option I would have taken it. I managed to get him out. In true Austin style, I barely got a thank you.
We both attended St. Mirin’s RC Academy in Paisley, where Austin left with decent Highers. He wasn’t a natural student, but 3 or 4 weeks before exams, he’d work non-stop and manage to get through.
During this time, I had been known to get in the odd spot of bother with our parents, almost entirely unjustified I have to say, but not the Sainted brother though.
He could play our mother like an expert fisherman playing a Salmon.
One Saturday, he’d been to Ayr races with his mate, he was about 17. Around 8 o’clock the back door bursts open, all sorts of banging going on in the kitchen. I’m sitting with the parents thinking right he’s obviously very drunk, he’s getting his just rewards tonight at last.
He literally fell in the living room door, with a big dopey grin on his face.
Mother asks did you have a good day son. Yes replies the sainted one, but I had an Indian curry and I think it’s made me dizzy. Oh my dear son, you better go upstairs and have a lie down.
It didn’t stop with our mother. We went to Ireland every summer to stay on the farm our father grew up on. We were playing cards one day, Austin cheated non stop, even if he was winning he still cheated. The usual argument started and our Irish Granny hearing the noise, comes in without saying a word and clips me round the ear and tells “Austy son” not to play with me if I’m cheating.
As you all probably know he had a very successful career, going straight from school to Fraser Martin’s, an accountancy firm in Glasgow as a Trainee Chartered Accountant.
As part of the training his second year was spent at Glasgow University. He was very proud to attend Glasgow University and this was his most successful period to date, actually increasing his highest snooker break to 21 over his time there.
As always, though he got there and duly qualified as a Chartered Accountant. Fairly soon afterwards he left for an opportunity in Zambia, where he stayed for about 10 years.
On his return in 1988 we were celebrating our parents 40th Wedding Anniversary in what was our favourite Hotel in Scotland. The same day he was waiting on news to find out if he had become a partner. He duly found out he was successful and immediately called for Champagne – I’m buying were the famous words.
Checking out in the morning there were more famous words from him – You owe me £50 for the Champagne – I don’t even drink the stuff.
A few years later I went onto Dialysis, and waited about 2 years for a transplant. The brother, not to be out done followed suit, but he received a transplant after only waiting about 2 months. My mother actually asked me, “Do you think he got the transplant so quickly because he was Chartered”. She loved that word Chartered.
Austin, as all right thinking people are was a Glasgow Celtic fan, we went to many games together over the years. We had season tickets together last season, but he couldn’t renew this year due to his failing health.
He wasn’t the most patient of Celtic fans, and whether I was at the game or watching at home I often get texts from friends. BUT I knew when Austin texted I knew it was him, especially if we were losing the beep had a rage about it.
Last example was against Zenit St. Petersburg in the Europa League a few weeks ago. I was at the game, half time comes BEEP BEEP. I know it’s him. It read…
“This lot are absolute (small swear word), we should be 3-0 up and as for McGregor he is absolutely (big swear word) useless”.
I reply, “You’re not watching McGregor properly”. McGregor duly scores a fantastic winning goal, and is named Man of the Match.
Full Time Text, BEEP goes. “I told you McGregor was brilliant”!
The day before his 15th birthday, he had the joy of seeing the Lisbon Lions become the first British club to win the European Cup in May 1967.
Only a few weeks ago, after many painful defeats he also had the absolute joy of watching Scotland destroy England at Murrayfield with his close friend Peter Ward, who I believe did not take it all that well.
Austin never talked about his work, most of you will know more about that than I do, however I do know he found great fulfilment in his work for St. Cuthbert’s Care.
I believed Austin to be a very compassionate man, who felt deeply for under privileged people. He would help anyone, strictly on the understanding that if they were able to, they’d also help themselves.
He wasn’t above a bit of snobbery, when living in Stocksfield the two of us were walking to the pub one night. On route, I commented on some lovely 4 and 5 bedroom detached houses, straight away he quips……”that’s where the poor people live”.
Austin was kind, generous and loyal to my family, in particular my children Michael & Kathryn. He was always there for any support that might be needed.
It’s incredibly hard to imagine not having contact with him again he will be hugely missed by all of us.
I’m sure there are many to thank for the support Austin received during a long illness, in particular last year when he spent 15 weeks in hospital.
Thanks to Canon Spence, Fr Mariadass & Fr Phil Carroll for celebrating this Mass.
Special thanks to Moira Ashman for today and the huge support she gave my brother over many years. She has been incredible, thank you.
There is no doubt that Austin felt his biggest achievement and greatest joy was his son, Jack. They had a simply fantastic relationship.
Last year Jack gained 3 A* “A levels”, and the only person surprised was Jack himself. He’s now at Edinburgh University where I know he will succeed there.
Jack is as fine a young man as you could ever wish to meet. Our family love him and always have great fun and banter in his company.
My brother adored him and was proud of him beyond any words.
Stay strong Jack we know you will go on and make your father even prouder.
Sheila Nora Hill RIP
From Hilary Hill, 20 January 2017:
Dearest Mum was a stoic lady. Things had not always been easy for her but she always presented a smile and was very encouraging.
She was born in Brazil on 28 December 1928 to two British citizens, Arthur John Thomas and Nora Elsie Thomas. Her father had a job with International Paints over there so consequently she spent her formative years in Rio de Janeiro, living right on the sea front, where the sand was so hot she had to walk on a towel when crossing it! A combination of her fair skin and the hot climate caused her problems in later life. Mum had an older brother, Derek, who was eight when she was born and although she adored him he was mostly away at school. Sadly Derek was killed in the Second World War, just weeks after his 21st birthday.
The family returned to the London area where she was employed by the BBC and soon met my father, Edward who, coincidentally, was also born in Rio. They were married and went on to have four children, Mark, Simon, myself and Patrick. We remember moving house quite a bit in those early years but we finally settled and ‘grew roots’ in Newcastle. Sadly Mark was killed in a climbing accident and Patrick died recently of cancer.
When our father’s work took him away she would have all four of us to look after so consequently she never was able to return to work. She enjoyed cooking, sewing and several other craft things but mostly she was a devoted mother who put her family first. She was a great dog lover and in later life they were a great comfort to her. She enjoyed music and reading, but especially jigsaw puzzles which kept her mind alert. She liked to listen to the news and watch some sport and she was always interested in others. She read a lot and was always doing crosswords in the newspaper. She was a humble, modest but stubborn lady who despite her many health problems and hospital stays rarely complained.
Mum had four grandchildren and five great grandchildren whom she was very proud of.
Her faith meant a lot to her and sustained her to the end. As long as she was able she attended Holy Name Church where she would join with others praying and praising God. Now she will be looking down from heaven laughing at us all. She didn’t like people to get upset.
We had a very happy time growing up with her. She was a real rock, through thick and thin, always supportive despite going through some very tough times.
As time rolled on she was getting more and more frail. On numerous occasions I was aware of her having fallen so it was decided she move into Residential Care. In her last three years she was at Abbeyfield Care Home in South Gosforth. By then she was quite deaf and we had some hilarious conversations when she mistook what was being said! Also we had to shout at her so much so that everyone in the near vicinity could hear us. It was a credit to the Home that she was happy. She liked the staff who were all very caring and attentive.
She will be missed and remembered fondly by those she leaves behind.
David Shirt RIP
From Dominic Shirt, 12 January 2017:
For those of you who don’t know me I’m Dominic – David’s son, and I want to thank you so much for coming to celebrate this Mass today. Isabel Allende – Chilean American writer wrote: “There is no death. People die only when we forget them.’ So I wanted to share with you how I’ll remember my Dad.
He was always proud of his links to Tideswell in Derbyshire where he grew up, and would talk at length about his childhood , my grandparents and his life during and after the war. I’m only glad now I recorded some of these memories in a family tree before he left us. But if you chat to his contemporaries in Tideswell, David was always known as the clever one – some even said he had a photographic memory – going to University was almost unheard of in this close farming community. However, he not only achieved this gaining a degree from Manchester and eventually a PHD but went on to become an internationally known academic at Newcastle University. Here he would meet my mother whilst working as a warden at Henderson Hall and she at Ethel Williams Hall and the rest is history.
Despite this brilliance, I never felt he put pressure on me – when I was growing up and worrying about exams he would always say – “just do your best- and if you’ve done that then you can’t do more”. But it was one of my proudest days when he attended my own graduation here at Newcastle – in full PHD outfit with floppy hat.
However, he always made you feel that he never stopped being that simple Derbyshire lad at heart.
Thirty-five years ago his life and ours changed for ever when he had the stroke. Despite his intellect being unaffected, it became rapidly obvious he couldn’t carry on working. So he developed other interests. He visited day centres for disabled people regularly and became involved with embroidering and painting – discovering a whole new creative side. We’ve got a lot of this work at home – a kneeler he did for Tideswell Church is on his coffin. This led him down some interesting avenues, including involvement with Leonard Cheshire and an invitation to Buckingham Palace which I took up on his behalf.
During the 1980s he was a huge Mrs T fan. I didn’t agree with a lot of his politics but we would always have great debates and discussions about the world whilst sitting in that front room in Holly Avenue.
He did have a wicked sense of humour – from turning the hands of mannequins in shops to biting the heads off jelly babies and listening to them scream.
We visited France a lot when I was a teenager and I’ll never forget the horror on my little sister’s face when it became apparent that we were being served cow’s tongue by the family we were having lunch with, followed by my Dad making swishes of the said cow’s tail under the table to wind her up.
But his family was very important to him. From his to Tideswell links – Cecil Ruth and my cousins, to my Mum, my sisters and now my own family. He was a caring and gentle Dad and Grandad. He was so proud at his 50th wedding anniversary 18 months ago.
Which brings me onto the last memory – his sheer bloody stubbornness to go on .
In the First Reading for our Mass, Moses learnt during the battle that the only way to keep going was never to give up. And Dad never did. Even at the end when his quality of life was so poor, he never, for one minute, gave up. No matter what was thrown at him , he just ducked and kept going. When life had been difficult for my family over the last few years, his example of strength gave me strength .
MLK said ‘The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy’. Well, Dad may not have had controversy but he certainly had challenge and I think he passed with flying colours.
So how shall we cope now he has gone? Earl Grollman, who was an American Rabbi, said “Grief is not a disorder, a disease or a sign of weakness. It is an emotional, physical and spiritual necessity, the price you pay for love. The only cure for grief is to grieve.” And I think an important part of grieving is to remember .
From Sally Hayes (nee Shirt), 12th January 2017:
As many of you know because you knew him well, our Dad David was not always the invalid he became in his latter years. He was a funny, lively, active, affectionate, at times very soppy, and very intelligent man who was interested in everything and enjoyed the finer things in life. My earlier childhood memories often involve family holidays in Tideswell and being marched around various hilltops and complaining fiercely about it which is ironic as it is here that I founded my love for the outdoors (and for the Peak District) which I pursue with my own family now. I also remember the crazy university lecturer taking us to primary school on the back of his bike wearing a safari suit and sandals and being referred to by our old headmaster as ‘The Doctor’. After the stroke he was still active for many years but in a different way and remained involved in our schooling and encouraged us throughout. I was proud to go on to study French at Newcastle University in the Department where he had worked for so long and he also took part in my graduation ceremony. An old colleague of his recently described his early retirement from academia at such an early age as a great loss to the university profession and I believe it was.
Many people will not know that as well as loving languages, art, literature, opera and classical music my Dad also loved nice things and shopping and for quite some years my closest friend Claire and I would take him into town every Christmas on a real spree. I have many fond memories of these trips and his antics in trying to embarrass us and the ladies in Fenwick’s perfume department, sabotaging every shop dummy we came across, pronouncing everything we bought (usually lovely gifts for our Mum) with an over the top embarrassing French accent and shouting ‘beep beep’ at anyone who got in his way. 2 of my friends (who are here) have recently mentioned these trips, particularly the culminating lunch we would always take him for (he loved his food) and knowing where every disabled loo in Newcastle was.
My Dad used to write me lots of letters, particularly during my year abroad and would often send me clippings from newspapers and magazines. He had many little sayings that he would always use, too many to quote now. Amongst the ones that made me laugh were: that outfits really can ‘shriek chic’; that if you want something you need to work hard for it or ‘shake the money tree’; and that you should always be on the lookout for ‘someone you like better than yourself’. A friend recently commented to me that ‘Big Dave’s’ wisdom will not be forgotten and I know it won’t.
As well as being with his family his heart always truly lay in Tideswell, and being unable to visit in the last few years brought him great sadness. We had all tried to keep him in touch with the village through photos, videos and stories and a couple of years ago I helped him to write a piece for their village history project. He called it ‘Memories of the Moor’ talking about Tideswell Moor where he grew up and where he wants his ashes to return. I know wherever my Dad’s spirit is he is at peace and he is smiling and I would like to read out this memory that he wrote for you now:
Memories of the Moor by David Shirt
The Moor was a vital focus for play and social activities to generations of post-war children in the Town Head (‘Up Russia’). At the southern end was a copse of trees, ‘the plantation’ which contained climbing challenges ‘at your own risk’ which sometimes ended up in an ambulance! The Moor was fringed with clumps of nettles, docks and weeds which attracted butterflies which laid their eggs there to gorge on their hosts and produce a profusion of caterpillars. It was also the habitat of other insects, especially ladybirds.
At the top of The Moor in the strong winds home-made kites were flown which sometimes went AWOL over Wheston Bank or would dive bomb to commit suicide in the nearby electric pylons.
A charred circle marked the site of the annual bonfire, an occasion at which ‘gourmet’ delicacies such as parkin, thar cakes, cinder toffee and baked potatoes were served. We once had a camping night in a make-shift home-made tent on the moor with a Barber’s chip supper washed down with Vimto. Unfortunately, our meal was interrupted by an errant nosy cow which decided to join us, knock down the tent and put an end to our rustic idylls.
From Dominic Hipkin, following the death of his father, John Giles Hipkin, on 4 July 2016.
Born in Byker on 26th April 1926 to John & Elizabeth Hipkin, my dad had a hard childhood growing up during the depression and was evacuated to Lesbury in Northumberland at the beginning of World War II.
He loved sea stories and was determined to go to sea but as he was only aged 14 and three quarters he couldn’t wait the extra three months to join the Royal Navy at 15 so he pestered the various shipping companies that had offices in Jesmond until he was taken on as a Cabin Boy aboard the SS Llustrous, a tanker heading for the West Indies in February 1941.
On the morning of 22nd Feb. 1941, young John was up early to serve the Captain his breakfast and as he walked along the deck he saw that they were no longer in a convoy on this cold misty morning. They were 600 miles off Newfoundland and out of U-Boat range now. Through the mist John could see the fighting top, the outline of a larger warship and wondered which of His Majesty’s ship it was. His answer came whilst serving the Captain’s breakfast when the first of the shells started falling around the ship as the Germans attempted to get the correct range for their gun turrets. The Llustrous was the first of six ships to be sunk that day by the pocket battleship Schornhorst.
“Go to your cabin, put your life jacket on then get to the life boats” the captain told him. Whilst getting his life jacket on in his cabin, John saw the Bible that he had had from Sunday School along with a packet of Woodbines. Which to choose ? The shelling continued and he picked the Woodbines and ran for the lifeboats. Lifeboats were now being lowered whist the Captain threw the radio code books over the side in weighted bags and the wireless operator continued to send out their position calling for help. As the crew rowed away from the doomed tanker the whole event was captured by a German Navy film crew and is now often used in footage depicting the Battle Of The Atlantic including footage of the sinking of the SS Llustrous.
John now regretted the choice that he had made in this cabin when a Tyne older sailor relieved him of the Woodbines. “From now on you need to look after number one” another sailor told him. “Number one?” thought John. “Which officer is that and what do I need to do for him ?” The naivety of youth and the harsh realities of the future were beginning to collide.
The next two weeks were spent on the Schornhorst where young John was collected daily by an armed guard to be given work to do. More often than not the guard would be ridiculed by his German shipmates for having to be armed to escort young John around the ship and on many occasions he was relieved of his “dangerous” prisoner by the laughing sailors whereupon John was taken down to the mess deck to have his pockets filled with sweets and chocolate. Dad always told us that for sailors the world over the enemy was the sea, not each other.
Passed on to a prison ship and then landed in France, John finally ended up in the first of several prison camps. The Germans didn’t quite know what to do the increasing numbers of captured Allied merchant seaman and, eventually, a special camp would be built that would be guarded not by the Army but by the Kreigsmarine, the Navy.
Six weeks after being put in the PoW camp, John was to have an even greater life changing event than that of his traumatic capture at sea. Another ship’s crew and passengers were brought to the camp. Among the passengers were six French-Canadian Catholic priests en-route to Africa to become missionaries. Their missionary work was not to be in Africa but in the PoW camp with young John who had just turned 15 years old and had been abandoned by his older shipmates to fend for himself. These six magnificent Men of God took John under their wing, even giving him some of their meagre daily rations. They cared for him, educated him and although he came from a Anglican family in Newcastle, John converted to Catholicism whilst in the Camp. He had an incredibly strong faith born of the four and half years behind wire in Germany.
He was liberated by a British tank smashing through the barbed wire fencing on the 29th April 1945. It was John’s 19th birthday. What a birthday present. He returned home to a bombed out house to be re-united with his sister and mother (his father was still with the Army in Germany).
John now tried to build a life and get a trade. His uncle, a carpenter, offered to take him on as an apprentice but the years of malnutrition in the Prison Camp had taken their toll. Cuts from working with the wood always turned septic so a career in wood work was out of the question.
He took a number of different jobs but not seemed to be quite right.
In 1951 he met Wynne at St. Dominic’s Priory on Shields Road through a mutual friend and they married in 1954. Mark was born in 1958 and Dominic (named after where they met) was born in 1968.
John finally found his niche in the working world and became a teacher at 33 years old, working in several Catholic schools in North Tyneside until he retired in 1988. He was often stopped in the street in Wallsend by ex-pupils telling him much they had enjoyed his style of teaching and how much fun they had had on the hikes he led along the Roman Wall and through Plankey woods.
John always felt that he had to try and make up the years that he had lost whilst being behind the barbed wire fences of the PoW camps. He went back-packing with his son Dominic during the long summer holidays and visited 30+ countries between 1979 and 2001. His retirement present from school was a large ruck sack!
Dominic has fond memories of his father, climbing Mount Vesuvius and Mount Enta within 48 hours of each other, seeing Pope John Paul II in Rome, swimming in the Sea of Galilee and sleeping on the decks of ferries steaming around the Greek Islands. Each holiday was a living history, geography and RE lesson.
In 1990, news broke of how 306 British soldiers had been shot by firing squad for variety of minor offences such as not hearing their regimental cap when off the front line all as a result of the little understood condition of “Shell Shock”. It was also revealed through the now released government papers that a number of these soldier were in fact boys who had signed up under age. This made John extremely angry and he started the “Shot At Dawn” campaign to allow these 306 men and boys to be pardoned and allow their names to be added to their local war memorials all over the UK. John led the campaign for sixteen years with a tenacity and drive born from seeing a 15 year old Yugoslav boy prisoner shot right in front of him by a guard for simply wanting to dip his mouldy bread into the soup tin of a British prisoner. He too was only 15 at the time. John had a strong sense of right and wrong and was haunted by that dead 15 year old and wanted justice for the 306.
Finally, posthumous pardons were granted in July 2006 just as John was diagnosed with early stage Alzheimer’s. He was nursed and cared for by his wife Wynne at Home in Walkerville until 2012. He was then admitted to a specialist Alzheimers care home in Walker for 24 hour care and passed away in his sleep at 2pm on 4th July 2016 aged 90 Years.
This Eulogy was given by Tim Wickens at a Requiem Mass in Holy Name on 16 April 2016 for his brother Julian. Following the Mass, Julian’s ashes were scattered on the River Tyne.
Justin was born on the 15th of April 1958 at the Princess Mary Maternity Hospital here in Jesmond. He was always proud of his Geordie roots and would retain great affection for the North East throughout his life. Justin was the eldest of four children to Christine, and Tony who died aged 87 in 2014.
As an ardent supporter of public transport, Tony influenced Justin with the same spirit of enthusiasm at an early age and this was to be a defining characteristic in later life. With the family residence being in Lily Crescent, Jesmond adjacent to the local railway line the influence of trains in Justin’s life was firmly established. Tony also recruited Justin (and younger brother Rupert) as activists in the campaign to save Newcastle’s trolley bus network in the nineteen sixties. Thus began a long association with Jesmond’s 33 bus service that would continue for the next 5 decades.
Justin’s first school was Sacred Heart Primary in Fenham after which he moved on to St Cuthbert’s Grammar School in September 1969. Justin had a fascination for numbers evident in schooling and other interests which would subsequently direct his further education and future career. With his interest in train spotting the family home at Lily Crescent offered sightings of note and Justin would respond with lightning speed to the sound of the morning freight train approaching. On one unforgettable occasion his eagerness resulted in the entire family breakfast being liberally distributed across the kitchen floor as he unintentionally demonstrated the design weakness of folding table legs.
Justin was a great fan of cricket and enjoyed many batting performances although some local residents probably didn’t enjoy his performances quite so much. On one occasion he hit a shot not only out of the ground, but over the adjacent road and with pin point accuracy through the open kitchen window of a nearby house. Fortunately the lady of the house who was washing up at the time suffered only minor shock and graciously returned the ball.
Justin gained admission to Reading University in 1976 studying statistics and economics. Whilst at Reading he began a long association with the game of bridge and each term end would return home to Newcastle where his efforts to teach bridge to Rupert, Kate and me met with limited success.
When he graduated in 1979 Justin moved to London and started work as a statistician for Post Office Telecommunications (now BT). BT had an established bridge club and Justin was to become a central figure in ensuring its longevity, now affectionately known as the ‘Buttons’ bridge club.
Relocating to London presented Justin with opportunities to indulge his enthusiasm for railways with many new journey options and he took full advantage. Having toured throughout the UK rail network it wasn’t long before the lure of the Interail Pass beckoned through which Justin developed a passion for mainland Europe, becoming an ardent supporter of the European Union.
In 1981 Justin bought a flat at Ashford Court in Cricklewood and this would be his home thereafter. At Ashford Court Justin would demonstrate his gastronomic skills in his signature dish, the Fray Bentos’ tinned steak and kidney pie, immortalised by friends as ‘The JMW Spectacular’.
Justin was a regular user of Cricklewood station on the Thameslink network and his campaigning zeal led to him becoming a champion for local train users. An active Committee Member in the local Association of Public Transport Users (APTU) he was admired and much respected in his influential campaign to obtain improvements. Justin’s public transport interests were not restricted to railways as many people would attest to his encyclopaedic knowledge of London Transport’s routes and timetables.
Justin was proud to achieve the status of ‘Chartered Statistician’ and he would remain active in the Royal Statistical Society and the Operational Research Society throughout his career.
During the course of a long and successful career in statistics Justin held several London based posts in private and public organisations. A three year secondment to Eurostat in Luxembourg presented itself and Justin thoroughly enjoyed this experience of work and life at the heart of Europe. He subsequently returned to London and applied himself with enthusiasm to his new role at the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The draw of working in Europe remained strong and a further secondment followed to the European Central Bank in Frankfurt.
In the meantime Justin’s interest in encouraging conversation and classes in European languages had flourished through his energetic involvement with EuroClub.
When the credit crunch hit, the UK Government decided it would make sense and could make substantial savings by relocating government functions to the regions and for ONS this meant Newport in South Wales. Justin was not smitten at this prospect so he transferred his statistical talents to prisons and probation within the Ministry of Justice. In March 2011 with time off for good behaviour Justin was offered early retirement which he duly accepted.
Retirement provided many openings, not least was yet more extensive European rail travel but also time to concentrate on EuroClub where he had become chair and as a tournament director for the Buttons bridge club. Not one to remain idle Justin continued to successfully lobby on behalf of rail users at Cricklewood.
Justin indulged his passion for cricket as a member of Surrey, Middlesex and Durham Cricket Clubs. The latter as his most cherished club required frequent trips to the North East where he would stay with Mum and Dad at their house in Jesmond. Not neglecting his campaigning roots Justin’s focus turned to Jesmond’s 33 bus, a service that fell below Justin’s expectations of what constituted a public transport service. He subsequently became a frequent and familiar correspondent with Stagecoach Buses and Newcastle City Council on the subject of their substandard 33 bus service.
Despite the burden of his illness Justin never lost his enthusiasm for any of his passions and interests nor did he let treatment get in the way of life.
Many of you will have seen the prominent photograph of Justin on the Prostate Cancer UK website tribute. The photograph was taken at a delightful extended family gathering last July and it shows the sense of joy and happiness Justin experienced and brought to others.
Justin was a Roman Catholic of strong faith, he had the highest standards of integrity, he was modest, affable and passionately believed in social justice, actively supporting CAFOD and War on Want.
In addition to cricket, bridge, EuroClub and public transport campaigning Justin had many other interests. He was an eager ice hockey fan and followed the fortunes, or more often than not, the misfortunes of Newcastle United football club. His many artistic interests included visiting historic sites, galleries, theatre and he enjoyed listening to music, particularly sixties bands such as the Beatles and the Kinks.
He wasn’t quite so familiar with the Rolling Stones as evidenced when through curiosity whilst dining at a small café near St Pancras station he asked two gents sat nearby, namely Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood, if they were famous.
Justin was always interested in other people, he had a good sense of humour, he was a gentle, generous and thoughtful man.
Justin will be treasured as a wonderful and supportive son; as a beloved brother; a loving nephew and cousin; and as a loyal, great and true friend. He had great pride in his profession as a Chartered Statistician, he was respected, admired and recognised for his energy in this work and in the many other areas of his life.
‘What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is the difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead’.
Justin did make a difference to the lives of others, he made friends everywhere he went and we will miss him dearly.
The following Eulogy was given for Geoff Parkinson by John Willis on Friday 8 January 2016.
I have known Geoff for over 35 years — you might say from man to very old man,— and I’m proud and honoured to be able to say that he was a very good friend of mine. I ﬁrst met ‘Parky’, when I was introduced to Novocastrians RFC in the early 1980’s. He immediately impressed me as being a true Gentleman, a thoughtful, kind and generous person, a man of integrity and principle. His wife Ann and his children, Catherine and Phillip, were always his ﬁrst love but Rugby Union was a passion & Novos RFC was his second home.
Geoff’s formative years as a player were spent at “Gateshead Fell’ but he joined Novos in 1959 despite not being a former pupil of the RGS. How he managed to achieve this still wrapped in mystery! Regrettably his playing days at Sutherland Park were short lived & ended with a serious wrist injury. I understand it was John Elders, that very astute rugby person & fellow Novocastrian, who suggested that Geoff should take up refereeing and this he did, representing the Northumberland Referee’s Society, with great success and distinction. He didn’t quite make the International panel but he certainly blew his whistle against Leicester, Coventry and West Hartlepool, who were very senior rugby Clubs at the time.
Geoff remained Treasurer of the Referee’s Society until last summer. A position he held for so long that no one can remember there being anyone else. Whilst Treasurer he made sure that the Society’s Bank Account was always healthy as I’m told it was easier to get blood out of a stone than to get expenses out of ‘Parky”. Geoff also took over the ‘Chair’ of the Referees Society following the sudden death of his great friend Bob Ward and held both executive positions for a couple of years. For his efforts and commitment to the Society Geoff received many accolades including the prestigious Brindle Montgomery Award on two separate occasions.
Despite his refereeing commitments Geoff continued to take a very active part in the running of Novos. He worked tirelessly as Club Secretary from 1970/75 and as club Chairman from 1992/95 and was awarded a life membership in **** which is the highest honour the Club can bestow. However, perhaps his Proudest moments were between 1988/90 when he represented the Club as President. I can clearly remember Geoff’s ﬁrst game as President, it was away against Old Brodleians at Hipperholme, West Yorkshire. It was my 1st game as Team Manager and also Graham Ward’s ﬁrst game as Club Captain. As we drove into their ground we were stopped by their gateman. Geoff thinking that his new found position as President would convey some status & privilege explained that the car was occupied by the Novos President, Club Secretary, 1st XV Manager and a prop forward. The reply came ‘one player, 3 not, £12 please! The game itself was very close & hard fought but we prevailed and so began a partnership which lasted for the next 27 years whereby Geoff and I would support Novos both home and away each taking turns to drive.
Over the years we visited all the Rugby Clubs in Northumberland, Durham and most in North Yorkshire. Everywhere we went Geoff would be instantly recognised from his days ‘blowing the whistle’ and he would be greeted with affection and made most welcome.
Someone once said that ‘Novos may never be Premiership when it comes to playing rugby but they are certainly Premiership when it come to friendship and having a good time’. This, I fear, is true and certainly applies to the Novos Alics . “ The I Like A Do’s” have over the years become great friends, have enjoyed each others company and created lots of very happy memories and traditions. Geoff was of course a salient member of the Alics which also includes Oggie Wright and his 8 dwarfs, of which I am the smallest. Geoff particularly enjoyed our annual pilgrimage to watch England play France, a tradition that started in 1987 and continues to this day. He enjoyed these trips so much that he learned to speak french in his middle years which I feel was quite an accomplishment. It is one of rugby’s unwritten laws that what happens on tour stays on tour. But, I can certainly assure you all that when Geoff enters that great Rugby Club in the sky, and is greeted by all our absent friends, he will have lots of memories to recount and tales to tell. Geoff was a creature of habit and he enjoyed his routines. Friday nights were sacrosanct and he would be very disappointed if he had to miss his evening at the Millstone with his oldest and best friend Andrew Skillen and his protege Malcolm Jarvie. Geoff was a very sociable person and had lots of friends, he was well liked and respected, he was someone you could trust and rely upon, someone you could conﬁde in and ask for advice, someone who was always positive and supportive. Someone we all have had the privilege of knowing and it is a testament to the affection and esteem we all have for Geoff that so many of us have arranged to be here today. He will be greatly missed by everyone who knew and loved him but his passion for rugby lives on through his Grandsons. Young Sam plays with our under 9’s & big brother Cameron plays for our junior Colts. For as long as rugby is played in Northumberland, and as long as there is a Novocastrians RFC, G R L Parkinson will be remembered.
The following Eulogy was given at Holy Name on 5 January 2016 by Sara Kovach Clark for Christopher John Clark, aged 54, who died on 23 December 2015.
I only have a short time to paint a picture of the man we are saying goodbye to and it’s going to be hard to reflect all that he was. But the thing I keep coming back to is his smile-he had the most beautiful smile. You didn’t always see it but when you did it lit up his eyes.
But I should start with the facts, because Chris loved facts and knew more of them than anyone. Woe betide anyone who got into an discussion with him, he could marshal facts about the most obscure item and if you weren’t on top of the issue you were simply toast. But more of that later.
Chris was born to Anne and Derrick Clark on 1st August 1960 in a maternity home in Corbridge which subsequently became a pub. This was a source of much amusement to his parents as he ended up spending a lot of his career working in the hospitality industry, with a successful career firstly for Scottish and Newcastle breweries and then his own pub company.
Anne and Derrick were the deeply proud parents of a beautiful boy. They watched him grow into a man of the world; accomplished and gifted not just in maths but with a wide set of interests; art; music; literature; philosophy, politics and poetry. He had a great love of roaming the countryside in the lakes and elsewhere and of course he had an encyclopaedic knowledge of food and wine.
In turn he loved his parents very much and remained close to them throughout his life. When he and Anne suffered illness in later years they provided great support to each other.
Early on, his life was interrupted by the birth of my husband Mark who by all accounts was a quite irritating little brother but who Chris took under his wing. They had many happy times playing battleships on the sofa with their cousin Simon, occasionally dislocating elbows and electrocuting each other. But it was all in the best possible taste, at least that was what their Dad said when interviewed by social services. When they got older Chris would take Mark out on his adventures introducing him to a world of music and friends and experiences he probably shouldn’t have had; and Mark in his turn looked out for his big brother, especially in the field of romance. Chris was a hopeless romantic constantly getting his heart broken.
He was educated at St Cuthbert’s grammar school here in Newcastle where he met his best friend Gregg O’Reilly; he had met his match intellectually, and argumentatively and they went together (along with another St Cuthbert’s old lag John Dawson) to study together at Exeter University. There they met Andrew Slaughter along with a host of other interesting characters. Gregg and Chris were two of the cleverest men I have ever met. And boy did they both know it. I won’t say they were arrogant but Chris announced several years ago that he was thinking of re-writing the Wasteland; apparently there were a couple of areas where Eliot could be improved…
Chris graduated with a degree in Maths but quickly turned his intellectual gifts to the practical and was taken on to S and Ns graduate training programme following a stint working behind the bar at the Cornerhouse pub. It was there he met Simon James and the two began a friendship that lasted 35 years. They had a shared love of Steve Bell cartoons which began Chris’s love affair with the penguin and theirs was a friendship characterised by generosity, kindness and loyalty on both their parts. The picture you see on the front of the order of service was taken at Simon and Claire’s wedding.
Chris and Carolyn were married in 1990 and Alistair and Michael followed in 1992 and 97 respectively. These two guys were a joy to Chris and he was extremely proud of both of them. Mark and I had lots of fun going on holiday with the four of them and both Chris and Carolyn were very generous being and continuing to be very good friends to us. It was a great surprise to me that Chris took to fatherhood; he could often appear serious and a bit cynical. But that wasn’t who he was at all and I saw great moments of tenderness when the boys were small and huge camaraderie as they grew into adulthood. While in the last few years he was not able to live with Alistair and Michael he and Carolyn worked well together to ensure that their children had the support of two parents who loved them. He loved going to gigs with Michael and sharing music together and he was so proud when Alistair graduated and got a job with EY and very impressed with Ewa Alistair’s partner (as we all are!). Both boys shared his off-beat sense of humour; and of course his love of penguins.
In fact Chris had a dreadful sense of humour (no offence mate) and would love telling or retelling already bad jokes very badly and then laughing hilariously. He was a great cook and during cooking there were frequent visual gags involving oven gloves which no one really understood but we all had so much fun eating his food and laughing together. He continued to love cartoons with Peter Brookes replacing Steve Bell, especially around the time of the Scottish independence referendum. Although no longer a resident of Scotland he remained hugely interested and very knowledgeable about Scottish politics.
He loved making lists and was incredibly tidy and organised-you could always rely on Chris to pack your car with more than you could imagine and if you needed someone to arrange your kitchen or garage Chris was your man. Of course these traits could be infuriating too as could his love of long baths which he inherited from his Dad. I well remember his ability to avoid unwelcome visitors for 3 hours by simply ‘being in the bath’-while Mark, Carolyn and I fumed silently downstairs taking on the whole burden of the small talk.
Chris didn’t always have it easy, especially in the last few years, but what he never lacked was love; from his mother Anne, his brother Mark, his boys and his friends. In particular Simon James, Gregg and of course Avril.
For many years I prayed that life would get better for Chris and I think those prayers were answered. He finally got together with Avril, his soulmate and best friend for over 30 years and he was loving working with Martin and Tony at Oceana. Avril and Chris really enjoyed life together going to exhibitions, reading each other poetry, eating and drinking. He had rediscovered his joy of life; dancing down Station Road in Gosforth and singing in the bath with the window open (apologies to the neighbours). There was so much to look forward to and it all came to an end, far far too soon.
The last time I saw Chris was in October after a lovely weekend with him, Avril and Anne. Fabulous meal, lots of laughs (the odd ‘robust discussion’-well this was Chris…). He stood on his mother’s doorstep, one arm round his mum and the other round Avril-the very picture of a man at ease with himself. There is so much more I could say; but I will end with this memory of Avril’s: Chris sitting in a pub with a pint of London Pride and saying ‘I am absolutely and completely happy’. And of course, he did have a lovely smile…..
Rest in peace brother, rest in peace.
The following Eulogy for the late Mona Hughes was given at the Holy Name Church, Jesmond by her godson, David Evans, on 27 August 2015.
Mona Logan Hughes was born on the 5th December 1934. Her parents were publicans and she was born in the Crown Pub in Low Fell, Gateshead at precisely 6pm. A few years later, the family moved to the Dunn Cow, Dunston where they stayed for over 20 years. The pub is still there today and about a year and a half ago I took Mona back to see it. The land-lady was very friendly and let us look around, including the back where Mona used to play as a child. It was a nice trip down memory lane for her.
Mona’s father, who had been a professional footballer in his younger years, (he played for West Ham United), sadly died in 1946 from Tuberculosis.. He was only 47 years of age. Mona was very close to her father and his death had a big impact on her. Following his death, she went to boarding school in Ireland – she had relatives over there from her mother’s side and she liked Ireland very much. She often said that she felt very at home there. She kept in touch with her cousins right up until her death and she often went back for visits over the years.
At the age of 20, Mona joined Gateshead Borough Police Force and quickly made an impact by arresting a drunk driver and so becoming the youngest police woman to make an arrest in the North East at the time. It was in the Police Force that she met Ann Archibold who joined a few years after Mona and they remained good friends for the rest of her life.
After leaving the Police, Mona became a Social Worker for the Housing Authority. She was known for going out of her way to help young families setting up their homes, often giving up her own time and working very long hours, sometimes to the detriment of her own health.
She met the love of her life, Don, in the early 1970’s. At this time she was living in an upper Tyneside flat at 57 Hazelwood Avenue, Jesmond with her mother. She moved there in 1965 when her mother retired from the Dunn Cow. Mona soon fell in love with Don but told him he would have to wait because she was looking after her mother whose health was failing. Don told her she was worth waiting for and that’s exactly what he did. Her mother died in 1976 and in 1980, Mona and Don were married at Newcastle Civic Centre.
She often told me a funny story about the day of the wedding. They had a little reception back at the house and she started to get a migraine (something she often suffered with). So when the guests left, Don put her to bed and drew the curtains. She said the neighbours must have had a field day, seeing the bedroom curtains being drawn in the afternoon immediately after the guests had gone!
They stayed in the flat at Hazelwood Avenue for the rest of their married lives. After leaving the social working, Don and Mona started a little business buying and selling antiques. They travelled all over Northumberland and North Yorkshire together, going to antique shops and selling at antique fairs.
Don died in 2010 from a stroke. Of course this devastated Mona and she never really recovered from his death. Eventually, the flat in Hazelwood Avenue became too much for her and she was getting lots of disturbances from the students in the area. So earlier this year we helped her move to sheltered accommodation at Dunira House on Osborne Road. There she made some new friends and found it a lot more peaceful.
Mona was a very intelligent woman, her specialist subject being history, in particular, the monarchy. Even at the age of 80, she was still as bright as a button and able to rattle off dates and facts about royalty going back hundreds of years.
At times, Mona could seem difficult, very stubborn and quite opinionated; and woe betide anyone who disagreed with those opinions because you’d better have a very good argument to back it up otherwise you would be shot down immediately. She didn’t suffer fools gladly. But she was also a very kind and considerate person, always putting the needs of others before herself and she also had a great sense of humour and was very quick witted.
I just want to finish with an example of that humour. Whenever I was with her and my phone went off, or a text came through, she would always say ‘That will be David Cameron, he’ll be wanting your advice on something’. And during her final days, when we were visiting her in hospital, a text came through on my phone. So to lighten the mood, I said ‘That’ll be David Cameron’, and I heard her muttering something (her voice was quite faint at this point) so I leant in close to her and said ‘What was that, Mona?’ – to which she muttered, ‘He’ll be wanting your advice on something’. So even at the very end, that great sense of humour was still there.
The following Eulogy was given in Holy Name on Friday 14 August by Robert Currie for his mother, Mary Patricia Currie, who died on 19 July 2015.
Since I stood in this spot just over a year ago to say a few words at my father’s funeral, this is a moment I hoped would not come around for several years. However, ever since my Father’s death, my Mother has not been the same and has, hopefully, found peace now she is together again with my Father and her still born daughter, our sister, whose tragic loss had a great emotional effect on Mother but a loss of which she rarely spoke.
Mother spent her early and formative years in Northern Ireland during the depression and the war. She had 7 sisters and 3 brothers all of whom pre-deceased her. Her own Mother died when she was 6 and she was called upon to assist in caring for her younger brothers and sisters. I think it is fair to say that Mother saw some really hard times as a child in Ireland and it is a special tribute to her that she came through things so remarkably strong. In search of a better life, many of Mother’s family moved to England. Mother sought a new life in Newcastle where her brother David had already moved to. It was in the city that she met and married my father, a marriage that lasted over 59 years, falling a few months short of their diamond anniversary and a telegram from the Queen.
The lifestyle Mother came to enjoy in her later years was a world away from the lifestyle she had known as a young girl in Ireland. Despite her extensive travels around the world with my father, her first love was her family and, in particular, her grandchildren. She took a great deal of pride and enjoyment in seeing Sarah, Jonathan and Simon grow into successful adults, though that enjoyment was at times tested as she attempted to separate the younger Sarah and Jonathan fighting on her lounge floor. Great pity that she was unable to see Niamh, Patrick and Finoula follow the same path.
It was not until after my Father’s death that it became apparent that my Mother was seriously ill. Her devotion to my Father through his long illness was such that she ignored her own health in an attempt to make my Father’s last days more comfortable. Despite her illness, Mother never complained about the discomfort she was in, a rare quality in anybody. By the time she sought medical help after my Father’s death it was too late.
Mother took everything life threw at her and just kept coming back for more. Throughout her battle with cancer Mother did all she could do to hang on whilst at the same time keeping her spirits high for us and she never complained once. We’ve been amazed and inspired by her. Now I realise that within the tragedy of Mother’s final days she left a hidden gift, inspiration.
So rest in peace Mother. We will think of you and miss you. And when I say think of you I mean every day, and when I say I’ll miss you, I mean always. I love you.
The following eulogy was given for the late Mary Anne (Mollie) O’Mahony by her daughter, Aileen Madden, at her Funeral Mass in Holy Name on Tuesday 28 July 2015:
When someone dies who is very close to you, it makes you pause and reflect on that person’s life; their life story: how they have used their time and how they have influenced the lives of others. This is Mollie’s story.
Our mother began life on the 15th of May 1919 at the Princess Mary Maternity Hospital in Newcastle. She was baptised Mary Anne but was always known as Mollie and she took her mother’s surname owing to difficult family circumstances.
These same circumstances meant that she was placed in the care of the Sisters of Nazareth at their orphanage on Sandyford Road, Newcastle, at the age of three. She became number 57 on the school register, a number which she regarded as lucky throughout her life.
She was always appreciative of the education provided by the Nuns who gave her a love of poetry and literature and stimulated her great interest and talent in needlework and handicrafts. She made many friends there whom she kept close over the years.
At the age of 14 she was ready to launch herself into the world when she was placed by the Nuns as the companion to a retired headteacher in Jarrow. However, this didn’t provide quite the exciting opportunities Mum had been hoping for so she decided to work as a children’s nanny instead. She went off to London with a family and sampled the big city for a while before returning to Newcastle to a new career in secretarial work in the offices of Rington’s Tea and then Northern Coachbuilders.
At the beginning of the war she decided to do her bit by training to be a nurse and thoroughly enjoyed it. Unfortunately, she caught every disease in the hospital, including a bad case of diphtheria which ended her hopes of a nursing career as she entered a long period of convalescence.
But Mum was determined to contribute to the war effort. She loved the countryside and the outdoor life so she joined the Women’s Land Army with some of her pals. This was one of the happiest times of her life, living in hostels at Cornhill and Stocksfield with all the things she enjoyed most: hard work, fresh air, companionship, the weekend dances and, hopefully, something decent to eat!
She met Dad just after the war and left the Land Army to get married in July 1949. She became Mollie O’Mahony, which is even more difficult to spell, in its many permutations, than McKenna!
They went to live in St Patrick’s Parish in Felling. Dad taught at St Joseph’s Secondary School in Sunderland. With Dad, Mum was able to achieve her prime ambition in life, which was to have, and be part of, her very own family.
She had four children and devoted herself to being a superb mother and homemaker. She was always there for us when we came home from school, with a smile and a meal ready, eager to hear our tales of the day. She was a marvel at making ends meet and could make a pound really go the distance. She would sit up most of the night to finish making a dress for one of her girls to go to a party. She even sewed a tent for Tim when he was in the Scouts.
St Patrick’s, where we were all baptised, became the focal point of family life. Here we received the sacraments and took part in all aspects of parish life. Both Mum and Dad provided a strong moral compass by which we charted our course even if we sometimes rebelled against it! They were so proud of us and our achievements, which were broadcast far and wide.
Mum could not help us with our Latin and French homework but woe betide you if got up from the kitchen table without completing it. Education was a gift which we were encouraged to take wholeheartedly and we were always to work hard and do our best. Her four children all became graduates, the first in the O’Mahony family, with careers as Head of Modern Languages, Primary School Headteacher, Electrical Engineer and Lawyer. Her joy was complete.
She nursed Dad through a stroke for seven years with love and patience. She was always cheerful and positive. She loved to travel and enjoyed visits to Ireland, Scotland, some of the great European cities and even California.
She came full circle in later life when she moved to a retirement apartment called Sandyford Park, built on the same land where the orphanage once stood. Part of the orphanage building still remains and is now the Junior Department of Newcastle High School for Girls. She was invited to the school along with the other residents of Sandyford Park to listen to the girls singing carols at Christmas and she stood under the main staircase which she remembered so well from her childhood. The circle was complete.
From such poor prospects, she has striven against the odds and achieved her ambitions. She has lived in a Christian and courageous way and I am sure she was comforted greatly to have us all at her bedside as she released her hold on this life.
And so it goes.
May God bless her.