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Marie Pollard - the girl who made a difference


TRAGIC LOSS The late Marie Pollard was a beloved personality in her native Mayo and adopted Galway.

Willie McHugh

The sad tidings came like a bolt from the blue. The news that Marie Pollard was fatally injured in Dublin was way beyond comprehension for everyone who knew her. Marie had travelled from her Galway home to meet her sisters Helen and Claire. It was pre-planned as an enjoyable day out. But an accident on Eden Quay turned what was supposed to be a joyful occasion into tragedy. So severe were her injuries that, barring a miracle, there was no hope of recovery.
On Friday, November 11, with her loving family at her bedside, Marie passed away in the Mater Hospital. But even in her passing Marie, as she did throughout her living, was still a generous giver, donating her organs so as others would have a second chance. Despite all its advances, modern medicine hasn’t yet mastered personality transplants because Marie’s would have been special.
If you met Marie you never forgot her and wished to encounter her again. She was the best of great company. She left a wonderful imprint on the lives of so many. That beautiful welcoming smile, her reassuring words, the compassionate nature, the friendships she continually maintained and her great sense of humour endeared her to all who knew her.
She was the eldest born to the late Brendan and Lena Farragher. Growing up on their Ballyrourke farm near The Neale, Marie inherited the Farragher work ethic. Ballyrourke was the fulcrum of her universe. At every opportunity she returned there to visit family and friends. She had all the lovely west of Ireland traits. Her ‘well how in the world are ya’ greeting was plucked from her well-tuned heart strings.
She was bereft of airs and pretence. A friend tells of a time she and Marie, as teenagers, were invited to a 21st birthday party. Attired in all their finery they were chauffeured there in Brendan Farragher’s Ferguson 125 Tractor.

Nursing vocation
Early in life Marie had decided on nursing. And when she applied her mind to something she saw it through. For her it wasn’t a career or a profession. It was a vocation. It was her calling and she devoted all her life in answering it to the very best of her ability. Treating every patient as if they were your own family was the dictum she adhered to.
Shortly after qualifying Marie volunteered with Concern spending two years working in Thailand and Bangladesh. On a 1984 November evening blazing bonfires welcomed her home to The Neale. It was the village’s first great homecoming, the type normally reserved for victorious teams. That happening for one so young indicated the esteem Marie and the Farragher family were held in.
For the following 36 years she worked in University Hospital Galway. She always went beyond the call of duty. As a theatre nurse she excelled. She had the reassuring word and gentle grip of the hand to relax the patient coming into theatre. She was the first out after surgery to worried family members waiting outside.
She also insisted the surgeon who performed the procedure came to them also and explained everything. Nursing students availed of her fathoms deep font of knowledge. Marie wanted everyone to be the best they could be. She also applied a bit of light-hearted merriment to gently ease the pressures of the day. There was a grandscion of harmless diabhlaíocht in her makeup too.
Tom Pollard, a fine Tipperary man from the home of hurling as he’d remind you, was the lucky man who became Marie’s partner in life. They complimented each other so well. Tom has long since regarded ‘Slievenamon’ as the unofficial national anthem. But Marie remained loyal to the Mayo roots of her raising. Her party piece was Anthony Raftery’s famous poem, ‘Cill Aodán’.She proudly donned the green and red whenever Mayo went in search of glory. How proud she’d have been to see the Mayo flags fluttering in the Galway evening breeze as her remains arrived back to her Castlegar dwelling.
It was there on the threshold of Galway city that Tom and Marie made their home. Together they raised a family of three, Sarah, Gearóid and Mark. Marie had recently retired from nursing but idleness never sat well with her.
She was already enrolled in and undertaking two courses. She busied herself in her garden because Marie lent a hand to Mother Nature too. She also spent time putting smacht on a dog the Pollards acquired as a family pet. She enjoyed walking, meeting neighbours and stopping for a chat. She was about to do some voluntary work with Enable Ireland. That was typical of Marie, always giving freely to help those in need.

Throngs of mourners
Her funeral was probably the biggest ever seen in Galway city. But no surprise there because Marie left a captivating impression on everyone she met. For over six hours mourners joined an ever lengthening queue leading to the doors of Áras Naofa in Renmore to pay their respects. As they queued, mourners shared little anecdotes of the lady they knew and loved.
The following day every available space in St Columba’s Church, Castlegar was occupied an hour before Marie’s Requiem Mass celebrated by her brothers Fr Stephen and Fr Pat commenced.
To the altar family members carried mementos of her life. A family photograph from happy times, the scrubs she wore in theatre, the walking shoes she strolled the roads around her Castlegar abode in and a jar of soil from the farm in Ballyrourke that was later mixed with the earth in her final resting place.
Before the parting prayers her daughter Sarah delivered a heartfelt eulogy of a loving wife, mother, sister and friend who gave willingly to everyone and of her boundless energy to fit so much into her hectic life.
From the sprinkling of the baptismal water to the shaking of the incense Marie was the girl who made the difference by her words and actions. To her everyone was important. Regardless of the occasion she lifted people’s spirits by her very presence. In any situation Marie Pollard made the biggest difference. She will live on in the most precious of memories.
Marie is survived by her husband Tom, daughter Sarah, sons Gearóid and Mark; brothers Fr Stephen (PP Ballyhaunis), Seán, Fr Pat (ADM Tuam) and David; sisters Claire and Helen; parents-in-law Tommy and Mary Pollard, sisters-in-law, brothers-in-law, nieces, nephew, relatives, neighbours and a wide circle of friends.

A gentle guest, a willing host,
Affection deeply planted -
It’s strange that those we miss the most
Are those we take for granted

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