Lisclovaun, Westport (formerly No 1 St Mary’s Crescent)
We are broken-hearted yet blessed; grieving yet grateful; tearful yet thankful - Mam had a great life. She told us so herself. She did her best, worked her heart out and was happy with her life. She went to God without fear. Perfect love casts out fear.
Mam was born Peigí Hastings to Michael and Mary (Malone, High Street, Westport) at Doire Mhóir, Drummin, Westport on 26th October 1926. She was one of twelve children. The eldest twin boys died soon after birth, prompting her mother to return to High Street for the birth of her subsequent daughters (Maura, Áine, Sally, Brídjo and Maeve) and sons (Liam, Seán, Tadhg and Míceál).
Mam, like her siblings, was taught by her mother Mary in Derrymore National School before attending secondary school in Westport. Mam became a Junior Assistant Mistress, going on to teach in Kerry, Wicklow and Galway before returning to Mayo in Glenmask, Letterbrock and Westport Convent’s Scoil Phádraig, retiring in 1992. Mam often regaled us with stories of her daily cycle trip from Westport to Glenmask! How lovely that her former pupil, Pat Gavin from Derrycroft and New York, was among her many visitors during her final illness.
Mam loved teaching. More black and white as a younger mother and teacher, it was such a joy to witness her embrace all the colours of the rainbow as she embraced the experiences of life. A lifelong Pioneer, Mam was so proud of her Gold Pioneer Pin. Her Gold Certificate had pride of place in her bedroom.
Her lapel also hosted the annual Easter Lily. She wore it faithfully and it adorned her in death. She was a true Republican, embracing all in peace, justice and equality. She bought Irish-made products long before any Guaranteed Irish campaigns were even thought off.
One young teacher recalled being sent down town to buy a card for a colleague who was retiring. When the (non Irish made!) card was presented to Mother she said she would buy her own, which she did. Her motto was simple: Buying Irish produce protects the Irish jobs of Irish people. Irish culture was her lifeline. She could often be heard lilting or singing Irish songs as she baked her ‘historic’ brown bread, usually eight loaves at a time which were given to family members.
Mam was an avid reader, from books to newspapers and magazines. The Mayo News, Indo, Ireland’s Own and a spate of religious monthlies like The Far East, Reality and Pioneer were always in view. Maeve Binchy and Pádraig Pearse were regular pairings! A Mayo football supporter who could never watch a match, she was so proud of her brother’s (Liam Hastings) achievements with Mayo, especially the All-Ireland wins of 1950 and 51. She was delighted to meet the current Mayo team during their recent visit to the Sacred Heart Hospital. “And they were delighted to meet me!” she quipped afterwards.
She was warm, wise and wonderful. She loved her family. “Keep in touch” were her final words to whoever was leaving as she blessed them with holy water. The same holy water accompanied everyone on any journey, no matter how short. A plentiful supply of various ‘strengths’ was always on hand – St Mary’s, Knock, Lourdes, Fatima, Ephesus and the Holy Land (the elixir!)
Mam loved receiving telephone calls and letters from those of us who emigrated. At one stage, six of her eight children were scattered in London, Holland, USA and Australia. When she retired from teaching she took to the skies and travelled as far as she could, visiting Australia, Malaysia and the USA on several occasions.
The sudden and untimely death of her third-born, Rory, in Perth in March 2016 was a heavy blow to her and Dad. Technology provided some relief as Rory’s wake was Skyped home to Leaca Bán. She often said seeing him laid out and speaking to his family gave her great comfort.
Mam was in town when we returned from Australia with Rory’s ashes, which we placed in a beautiful urn made by friend and neighbour Kyran Duffy. When Mam came home she opened the urn, placed her hand in the ashes and blessed herself. We all then did the same. It is something we will never forget.
Mam enjoyed her grand- and great-grandchildren. She was interested in their lives, friends, work or study, dropping the wise word here and there, assuring them that all will be well. They all knew Granny Peigí was a great woman to soften the palm with denarius! She was also a regular giver to a myriad of charities, especially associated with hunger and eye disease.
Peigí McNally, (or Nic an Fhailghigh as she preferred), slipped away peacefully in her sleep at 12.45pm on Friday 30th June 2017. Her death, while still a shock, had its consolation in that Mam died peacefully, with Dad, Míceál (eldest) and Daire (youngest) at her side.
The last few months were difficult but there were unforgettable moments of bonding, love and affection. The mystery of suffering often unfolded in a myriad of blessings. Night vigil attempts to ease pain were mixed with her stoic humour and often ended in joint renditions of old Irish songs, be it Báidín Fheilimí or Óró Sé Do Bheatha Bhaile.
Jesus was the One Word never far from her lips. Mam had great faith, expressed in daily Mass and traditional devotions. She prayed to and prayed for. Taking her cue from St Paul’s Letter to the Romans that “Nothing can separate us from the love of God” she firmly believed that Jesus was Lord of all, in good and bad times, and in difficult and happy situations. Whatever happened or was about to happen, God was still in charge. Mass, Rosary, Benediction, Devotions and the Angelus were as much part of her make up as breathing.
Mam told us she was at peace and ready to go. She said she had a great life with Dad and her family, thanked us all and urged us to maintain a strong family bond. Mam and Dad were together for seventy-two years and married for sixty-one of those. They were the light of life for each other and their love was so obvious, especially during Mam’s illness. Kisses were the order of the day when she responded to ‘the old man’s’ amorous greetings. They still loved like honeymooners. Dad has lost his anam chara but he knows there is a part of him in heaven.
Mam’s final prayer after the Rosary was always “Gach ní ar do shonsa a Thiarna, gach ní ar do shon.” (Everything for You O Lord, everything for You.) That is now our prayer for her. Go luífidh sí i leaba na Naomh ‘s go ndéana Dia trócaire uirthi.”
Go ndéana Dia trócaire ar a h-anam dílis.