Mary Agnes Hewson Quinn

In 2010 I wrote about  my Mother on the 10 year anniversary of her death. Today I’d like to mark 10 years since the death at 90 years old of another great woman in my life, my Granny, Mary Quinn. I lived with her, my Grandfather and my Mother in the same house for about 29 years pretty much from birth and she was the last of my immediate family to die when she passed away peacefully in Tallaght Hospital, June 4th 2004. I never met my father but I like to say I had two mothers instead.

I remember not feeling very sad on hearing of her death. That came later. Rather I felt ‘cast adrift’ or abandoned in some way now that all of my immediate family had gone. And even though I had a partner at the time, I felt properly alone for the first time ever when she died. Almost like I’d lost another part of me. She spent the last 7 or 8 years of her life in Sally Park nursing home, Firhouse, where she had been given a special place after suffering long term depression for years before hand. She like my mother made many attempts on her own life including one infamous occasion where she was just about stopped from jumping out a hospital window a few stories up. I was also there the day we visited her to tell her the news of my mothers death and she looked straight at me. Into me. With deep sympathy and worry. It must have been awful for her at that stage of her life after what she’d been through herself with depression to be told a second daughter had died before her but she seemed to take it well.

She found a little peace in her latter years in Sally park under their close supervision and I’m sorry I never got to visit her much there, especially after we moved to Leitrim. I found it very hard to visit her for all kinds of reasons that I don’t need to go into here, some silly and others important. Unfortunately, she was the only member of my immediate family that my wife ever got to meet and in granny’s customary style, she managed to insult her on our brief visit to the nursing home! It was a nasty habit she had.

I’ve heard it said from other family members that knew her longer than me that she was a very cold, hard woman and showed very little affection to her own children as they grew up. Whether that was a symptom of the times or just her way I don’t really know but I remember her being affectionate to me and being much fun on many occasions such as the time she let me and my cousin tie her up with scarves and tights! We had many nice holidays away especially in Tramore, just me, her and my mother. I’ve been told she had a soft spot for me. Maybe I was like the son she never had or something having had only 5 daughters. I also remember she was great at giving advice and snippets of wisdom as only most older people can. One in particular was that you should “go out and tend to the garden” whenever you feel down. It really works. She would never have had much time for depressed people. She’d be the type to not tolerate it around her and tell you to pull yourself together and like my mother, it was some surprise that she succumbed so spectacularly to the disease herself although it didn’t totally get the better of her in the end.

Like my mother and myself, my granny had a wicked sense of humor and a very dry wit that bordered on being insulting and annoying sometimes. She was a bit too honest too! I guess she handed down these traits to my mother and I. If there’s any wisdom or old fashioned values to be seen in me (and there are if my wife’s opinion of how I’m raising my kids is anything to go by!) then it’s my grandparents, in particular my granny that must get the ‘credit’.

It’s also because of my Granny that we were able to setup in Leitrim and buy a house here. Who would have thought that old dump of a house in Crumlin we all spent so many unhappy years festering in would have bought such a nice house in which to raise my own happy family?

As I wrote in your condolence book on the day of your funeral, “Thank you Granny”. For everything.

Leon

Mary Quinn