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Achill mourns oldest resident


VENERABLE The late Margaret (Maggie) Gallagher was Achill’s oldest citizen. Pic: Hiro Masuda

Edwin McGreal

Achill paid a sad but fond farewell to Margaret (Maggie) Gallagher on Friday last as the island’s eldest citizen was laid to rest.
Maggie turned 105 last July and had been in good health up to her final days, living at her home in Dooega under the care of her daughter Anne and son-in-law Hiro.
She was a woman who left an enduring impression on all who met her and was one of Ireland’s oldest citizens.
Her grandson Stephen Gallagher paid a fulsome tribute to his granny in his eulogy at Maggie’s Funeral Mass on Friday afternoon in the Church of Our Lady and All Saints, Dooega.
He told the congregation how his grandmother endured some difficult times. Born Margaret Patten in nearby Mweelin on July 29, 1917, Maggie was the youngest of eight children but her mother died from Spanish flu when Maggie was one. She was raised by her father and her aunt.
She went onto marry Michael Gallagher from Dooega and the couple had six children. The eldest, Vincent, passed away from polio aged 18 months.
Like many of their contemporaries in Achill and, indeed, the whole west of Ireland, Maggie and Michael were forced to emigrate. They moved to Edinburgh, where they lived and worked for 18 years and went from there to London. In 1980 they made it home to their beloved Dooega.
“Since this time we have been so lucky to have these years of visiting Maggie. We have all (grandchildren) been blessed with being able to live with Maggie at some point in our life,” Stephen Gallagher told the congregation.
He spoke about the ‘streak of divilment’ in his granny.
“Maggie kept everyone entertained, she was a great storyteller and had an impeccable memory. She was always good for an Ireland’s Own joke, amazingly reading without her glasses right up until her passing.
“Maggie was a people person. She always showed an interest in people’s lives. There was no age group she couldn’t interact with. We loved that she had a streak of divilment in her and right up until the end she was still blagarding!
“Maggie was hard working, she had brilliant sense of humour, she was kind and she never complained. When asked how she was feeling, she would reply ‘I’m middling’. For someone who said she was middling, she lived a long and happy life. Didn’t she have us all fooled?! Above all else, Maggie was a lady.
“The trips to Achill will never be the same again without Maggie but we were all blessed to have her for as long as we had, and today is a celebration of her life,” said Stephen.

Care and support
He paid tribute to Maggie’s daughter Anne and Anne’s husband Hiro. Anne moved home from the USA to care for her mother over two decades ago and Hiro was a frequent visitor over the years and moved to Dooega full-time at the start of Covid.
“The long years we had with Maggie would not have been possible without the love, care and support that she had from both Anne and Hiro who cared for Maggie in the comfort of her own home. From the bottom of our hearts, we would like to thank them for their dedication to Maggie,” he said.
He also praised Maggie’s neighbours and friends who celebrated her birthday in recent years with a drive-by celebration, including for her 105th birthday last July.
“This meant so much to Maggie and showed the great community spirit that is in the people of Dooega,” he said.
Maggie will be sadly missed by her loving family, daughters Anne Masuda (Dooega), Molly (Ottawa), sons Martin (Castlebar), Michael (Dublin) and Tony (Norway), sons-in-law, daughters-in-law, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, relatives and friends.
Following her Funeral Mass, Maggie was laid to rest in Glencoe Cemetery.