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Mary Davis’s Mayo trip full of memories

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Independent Presidential candidate Mary Davis pictured canvassing on the streets of her home town of Kiltimagh on Friday last. ?Pic: Keith Heneghan
Independent Presidential candidate Mary Davis pictured canvassing on the streets of her home town of Kiltimagh on Friday last. ?Pics: Keith Heneghan

Mary Davis’s Mayo trip full of memories


Michael Commins

WHATEVER opinion polls might be saying nationally, Mary Davis is likely to get a very decent vote in her native Mayo. The former Mayo Person of the Year and Irish Woman of the Year (2003) got a warm welcome on her homecoming visit on Friday.
The day started off with a good interview on the Tommy Marren Show on Mid West Radio. “Like so many others, I may have left Mayo, but Mayo has never left me,” she told listeners to the programme.
To save time later, Mary decides to travel with me from Ballyhaunis to Kiltimagh, and an interview was carried out en route. And she loves to reminisce.

Childhood days
“Mrs McLoughlin and Mamie Campbell were the teachers I remember most in Kinaffe school,” the presidential candidate revealed. “We all brought the sods of the turf and cipíns in the winter time and put the milk beside the fire to warm it for break time.”
Mary’s five years in secondary school were spent at St Louis Community School, Kiltimagh. “I enjoyed my time there. Hugh McTigue was a brilliant maths teacher, ahead of his time. Mary Mannion was great at the Irish. I remember she was a big GAA fan too. Of course, I was mad into football as my brother Eugene [Rooney] was playing for Mayo at the time. He won All-Ireland minor and U-21 medals with the county in 1966 and 1967 and a National League with them in 1970. I played basketball and tennis while at St Louis.”
Arriving in Kiltimagh, the memories come rolling back. “Thomas Street, the ball alley, the cinema. My mother [Bea Brady from Carnahan] used to work there in JP Roughneen’s. Marian and Una Heneghan and all the family at the chemist shop. Miko, their dad, a fantastic man. Kieran and Brendan, her brothers, God rest them. “Carroll’s shop, that brings back memories. Mrs Carroll and all those lovely cones. Do you remember Mrs Mallon, Michael? Mrs Johnson’s paper shop. Mary is still here in town. Pat O’Donoghue, Ger Keegan, all the people I grew up with. Eileen Roughneen’s house there. I remember the funeral of young Linda vividly, the first young person I remember dying. [I tell Mary, emotionally, that this is a shared memory of ours … I remember Linda’s funeral and the impact it had on me too]. Kiltimagh was like one big family then. Things you remember have a special effect on you.
“So many of my friends are from Kiltimagh although my family had more affinity with Swinford and did nearly all their shopping there.
We used to cycle into town. If you were going to town, you were going to Swinford.”

Old haunts
First stop is a visit to St Louis school where Mary is welcomed and where she addresses one of the classes. “The small chapel is still there but there are a lot of changes since I was here,” she said afterwards.
After a brief chat with Bridie Coyne and others, it’s down the street to Maureen Walsh’s house. “We are behind you all the way, Mary,” says the mother of showbiz impresario Louis Walsh. Teresa Mannion from RTÉ and cameraman John McMorrow from Sligo are here to film the visit. We enjoy Maureen’s freshly baked buns (we knew them as buns before they became scones!). “Of course, Mary Davis has got the X Factor. We are family friends for years and know Eugene well in New York,” says Maureen.
Down the street to Aiden O’Hora’s where a sizeable group of local people have gathered to welcome Mary back to Kiltimagh. John Regan delighted all with a rendition of The Town of Kiltimagh. “It was lovely to meet so many of the locals again, Aiden O’Hara and family, Mick Higgins, the McGreevys, the Higgins from out the road, the Shannons, Miko Heneghan, Michael D Freeley, and so many more.”

Back to school
On to Kinaffe National School and the real ‘welcome home’. Teachers Margaret Reilly and Linda Devaney excelled in the preparations.
Billy McCann and Seamus Rooney and others were on hand to lead the welcome as well.
Margaret Reilly (principal) said they were so excited to welcome Mary home to Kinaffe.  “It is a wonderful day for us to be able to welcome you, a past pupil, back to this place where you first came to school. We are so proud to have a past pupil aspire to the like highest office in the land.”
Little Meadbh Reilly led Mary by the hand into the classroom as neighbours warmly applauded. This was all about a sense of place and local pride.
“This is so emotional coming back to the school I started out on my life’s journey,” she told them. “The creativity here is great, and it’s a credit to Margaret and Linda. Looking around, I see the Murtaghs, Regans, Muldowneys, Forkans, Horkans and so many more. There were around 150 in the school when I was here.  It’s great to be back and see so many friends and neighbours who were so good to us when we were growing up on the farm.”
The children sang The Green and Red of Mayo and recited a poem before Ciara Walsh and Liam McCann presented her with a copy of the Kinaffe NS Cook Book. Later, she inspected the school register and noted the entry recording her first day in school.
From there it was on to Swinford where another good crowd had gathered outside Liam Horkan’s pub to meet and greet Mary. A busy day still lay ahead with visits to Ballymote, Sligo, Ballina and Castlebar before winding down the day with a call to Matt Molloy’s pub in Westport and a lovely get-together with friends in Knockranny House Hotel.