King’s Hill, Westport, Co Mayo
Ann Marie Loftus (Annie) was born in Mulranny on October 25, 1946, the only daughter to her parents Molly and Willie Loftus and a sister for Martin and Michael Frances. Her father spent much of his time away working in England in the Peterborough Sugar factory like so many other Irish emigrants during the 1950’s. Ann often remarked that she knew her grandfather Martin Ginnelly who lived with the family better than she knew her own father.
School days were not as pleasant as nowadays, the nuns being quick to wield a ruler on a small hand and Ann often walked to the village school in Mulranny with a sod of turf during the winter. Her eldest brother Martin also emigrated to England in the late 1950’s and after a short time in secondary school Annie escaped to the world of work, initially working for the Kelly sisters (no relation) in Newport who ran a drapery shop, travelling back and forth on the bus. Here she learned how to fold and sort and bring order. She became very interested in style and fashion and out of necessity found ingenious ways of recycling and reusing before it became a trend. Her winkle pickers and backcombed hairdos cut a dash in the early 1960’s, thankfully all documented on film by her camera mad brother Martin.
Moving on to work in the bright lights of Westport in the mid 1960’s, Ann worked in Golden’s and subsequently for Charles Hughes & Co at the top of Bridge Street. She found lodgings with the late Betty McDonagh of the Crescent who would remain a lifelong friend. Ann made many friends amongst her work colleagues and often spoke of those great days working in town, the dances at the Starlight and the laughs she had. She met her future husband John Kelly of Slogger who was working for Stephen Walsh on Bridge Street and also Nancy Murray from Cogaula who would become her sister-in-law after Ann engineered a meeting between Nancy and her brother Martin who was home from England.
Ann and John married in October 1967 in Mulranny church on a glorious sunny day and moved into Kelly’s flats just off Bridge Street. They both continued to work and tales were told of pressure cooker dinners being pre prepared the night before to be cooked and consumed during the lunch hour. In 1968 Ann and John purchased their first home at No 5 St Patrick’s Terrace on the Quay Road. That signalled the end of paid work for Ann like so many women at the time. Martina William, John Raymond and Adrian were all born during the ‘Cottages years’ where Ann enjoyed the wonderful community spirit of the families that lived around her with chats over the hedges and up the avenues. The McNally’s either side, Naddy (Mrs McNally) and her brother Pa (Patrick) in particular assisting the young mother in every way possible including passing on the craft of crochet.
The growing brood meant a move of house and in 1978 the family moved to King’s Hill on the Newport Road and Ann took great pride in the new house and enjoyed decorating it. As the family grew Ann was able to find some time for herself and discovered her sporting talents. She played badminton in the Town Hall with a great bunch of friends and there was much shrieking to be heard on a Monday night over the nets. Later on she excelled at boules in the same location. Ann loved a game of golf and was a generous mentor to anyone trying to learn. She had patience and skill and her ever present sense of humour meant it was always enjoyable to play with her. Ann was also involved in the Ladies GAA club and continued her crochet work sharing that skill with many through the Westport Knitting Group in later years. Ann worked as a volunteer with Westport Social Services for a considerable period and again made many good friends there.
Ann had a warm, engaging personality and was loved by all. She put people at their ease and was always welcoming to others, she had a great laugh and loved having a bit of craic. She welcomed her children’s friends to the house and got to know them regardless of what hour of the day or night they might show up. Ann was very well organised behind all that laughing and ran a well ordered home providing great scones and apple tarts. She had her eye on every detail in the house and could turn her hand to painting and wallpapering and small electrical repairs. Her crochet cushions gave us a soft landing and the pencil pleats in the curtains were never short of perfect. She navigated the ups and downs of life with five teenagers with aplomb, turning a blind eye on occasions or failing to hear late night skirmishes as family members’ arrived home from the Castlecourt. She put up with all manner of fish, fowl and animal in the way of pets. She was the essence and soul of her home in King’s Hill.
Unfortunately, Ann’s health began to deteriorate in recent years causing her to retreat from life. Her eventual diagnosis with Motor Neurone Disease in September 2021 was a devastating blow to her family. Ann however never complained or felt sorry for herself. She remained pleasant and gentle even as the disease progressed and took away those things that defined her all her life, her voice, her laugh, her ability to share a cup of tea or a meal. She still enjoyed the style and her beautiful long Loftus hands and manicured nails were always on display for admiration when she had a visitor. Ann’s life came full circle in March of this year when she moved back to Mulranny under the care of Dr Jerry Cowley and his kind staff. She could see the rounded tip of the Reek and the blustery waters of Clew Bay from St Brendan’s, just as she had when walking back to the village school so many years earlier. She raised her hand to wave to us one last time on September 11.
Ann is survived by her husband John, daughter Martina, sons William, John, Ray and Adrian, brothers Martin and Michael Francis Loftus, sister-in-law Nancy Loftus, her seven grandchildren of whom she was so proud, son-in-law, daughters-in-law, partners, as well as a huge circle of extended family, neighbours and many many friends.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam.