Mary, nee Biesty from nearby Adrigoole, went to England at the age of 15. It was during her time in Manchester that she married Michael McGrath from Cullatinny, Knock. They were to spend around ten years in Manchester and their eldest daughter Mary was born there.
On moving back to the home parish, they settled in Eden where they raised a family of four, three daughters and a son.
Michael, like so many others in that era, continued to spend several months each year working over in England. This usually involved going in April and returning in December. Such a way of life was common throughout many regions of the West of Ireland in the late 1950s and well into the ‘60s.
Life on the farm came second nature to Mary. For years she hand-milked the cows and then bottled the milk and delivered it to houses around Knock as well as the hostel in the village. That was in the days before the more commercial milk deliveries became a normal part of everyday life around the country.
She had a great fondness for the cows and livestock and treated them with the utmost kindness. Even in later years, as she travelled in any part of the country, she found a field of cows was a picture to cherish, such was her affinity with nature.
Mary also operated a local hackney service back in the 1960s and many were the trips she made to Shannon Airport, bringing people from the area to Shannon for the flight to America or going down to collect them on arrival and bringing them home to the Knock area. There were times she drove through the night, brought home her passengers, and went straight out to milk the cows and later delivered the milk to Knock.
After ‘retiring’ from the cows and milk business, Mary took an interest in dry stock and always liked to maintain that close connection with the land. She also loved gardening and this kept her very close to nature.
Throughout her life, Mary had a special ‘gra’ for poetry, both English and Irish. The love of Irish poetry was passed down to her from her grandfather and grandmother who were among the last of the true native speakers of Irish in the parish. Master Ryan was her teacher in national school and he was especially interested in collecting the old “sean fhocals” which had been handed down and retained in the language of the family. She was blessed with a great memory and was able to recite the old poems in Irish and English that she learned in school.
For the past year or so, she had resided with her daughter Margaret O’Toole and family in Glinsk, where she died peacefully. A woman of strong and abiding faith, she was very at ease and comfortable with her Christian beliefs. As she said herself, she was well prepared and ready to go, happy and content with a life well spent.
Removal took place from the Marian Funeral Home to Knock Church with burial in the local cemetery following Requiem Mass celebrated by Msgr Joe Quinn. In his homily, Msgr Joe reflected on Mary’s life and contribution to her local community and her great affection for her family and home region. Her son John read the poem, Mise Raifteiri, which she learned in school and one she held dear all her life.
She is survived by her daughters Bernie Brady (Claremorris) and Margaret O’Toole (Glinsk), son John (Kerry), brother Willie (Manchester), in-laws, grandchildren, great-grandchild, relatives, neighbours and friends. - MC.