Remembering the Queen of Bertra

De Facto
Remembering Gráinne Kelly

Liamy MacNally

Her celestial arrival would not have been that gentle! There would be a little dust in her wake. Heaven is different now that Gráinne Kelly has arrived. The tower of Grace left us on Friday, April 23. St Peter probably scowled that day. He is in charge, supposedly. Mr Pearly Gates himself! He has the clipboard, the shortcut to the Book of Life. No doubt he wanted to assert his authority, checking his file. ‘Hmm! Late for Mass, more than once. Hmm…’
“Hold on! Hold on! Where do you think you are going?” he says. And peering down at his clipboard, “Gráinne Kelly, nee Mulchrone.” Gráinne would have looked him up and down and in an instant he would have decided that he was not going to confront her! “How dare you!” she would have said brushing by him. “It’s Mrs Kelly to you” and, as she whisked past, under her breath she would have whispered “Cock-a-doodle-do.” Peter never liked it when people reminded him of his weakest moment! “You DO know that I am a personal friend of the Man of the House, surely? And his mother.” Peter thought better of confrontation. Wisdom is a wonderful gift. One knows when to respond to certain situations and when not to. Peter was wise.
Gráinne bowed to no one, except her God, like Granuaile, another Queen. She was a woman of deep faith who always finished our conversations with: ‘say a special prayer for me as I do for you, every night’. She was happy in her beliefs and found a new lease of spiritual fervour in the Charismatic Renewal Movement of the 1980s. She was up there with the best of them, clapping and singing. ‘Praise You Jesus’ was one of her favourite prayers.
She visited the Holy Land around that time. Upon reaching the Sea of Galilee, Gráinne prepared to take a dip. Suddenly we heard a shout as a Franciscan (the guardians of the holy sites) ran towards her holding his habit in one hand in case he would trip and trying to cover his eyes with the other! “Holy place! Holy place! Holy dress! Holy dress!” he screamed as he bounced across the stones towards the shoreline and Gráinne. He protested to her. She protested back. “Didn’t Jesus swim in it?” She, in her generosity, did not swim there that day. She settled for a camel ride!  What a pilgrimage!
She was a regular swimmer at the Quay, Bertra, Old Head or wherever there was water! She particularly enjoyed being crowned the ‘Queen of Bertra’ by her nephew, Pádraig Flynn, when he had steps and a rail erected at Bertra! When she swam at the Quay it was sometimes as au natural as you could get, without blinking an eyelid!
She took no prisoners yet she cared for so many people. She visited the housebound and people in hospitals. She was most busy at election time! “Don’t forget Bev,” was her mantra. It is claimed that she uttered the phrase even as she distributed Holy Communion! Bev could do no wrong. When Bev received bad press Gráinne suffered. She had a great loyalty. During the by-election campaign in 1994 (when Michael Ring was elected) she was ‘accosted’ late one night and accused of attempting to remove his poster from a pole outside her home. “Go home, ya brat ya,” she told her accuser! Recently, she praised a local town councillor, not of the Fianna Fáil persuasion. “I like you. You’re good.” The councillor was delighted. “But I’ll never vote for you!”
Gráinne was mighty company and had a great sense of humour. She laughed from deep within and loved jokes. She could listen to and tell jokes but usually broke down before she could finish. She enjoyed social occasions and never let anything go to waste. Recycling was in her nature! What could not be used today would be used another day. She was frugal but had a depth of generosity. Gráinne loved company, which she chose carefully, and enjoyed friends calling to her home. She was never flash but always had style. She sang and sang and gave loyal service to St Mary’s Choir and Westport Choral Society - a rum chanter who also often recited poetry.  
At her funeral everyone had a ‘Gráinne story’. She was that type of person. Perhaps the most fitting tribute was when she was carried, shoulder-high, down St Mary’s Church aisle for the last time. She was carried again at Aughavale to be laid to rest alongside her beloved PJ. Regal moments, fit for a queen. Gráinne, may angels guard thee. 

“Hers the kiss of Mother Mary,
The long hair is on her face;
Still she goes with footsteps wary
Full of earth’s old timid grace.”

WB Yeats