06 Geraldine May, Ballinrobe

Geraldine May
Sarah Horan
On occasion of Joanne May's graduation at Trinity College L to R Geraldine, Joanne & Des May
Sarah Horan

Of all the women who had an influence in my life in Ballinrobe, one woman stands out the most. Geraldine May (or Mrs May as she will always be to me) was very much a presence in my life from my first day in school in Ballinrobe when I sat beside Joanne May. We would soon become their neighbours on the Neale Road and life long friends.

Mrs May always had strong convictions and was never shy of voicing her concerns. When we were in school in Ballinrobe, she kept a watchful eye on us all – and on the teachers! If she felt that a particular teacher had stepped out of line, she wasn’t shy of making her views known to them. In so doing she gave a degree of protection to us in an era when that was not commonplace. As a teacher once said to her other daughter, Deirdre “I better not say anything to you or your mother will be up complaining”. And that is what Mrs May was so good at-standing up for, or standing behind, those that needed a bit of support and in many cases, righting a wrong or pre-empting one happening.

Mind you she wasn’t slow to hide her views when contents of my wardrobe did not appeal to her- a pair of high (ridiculously high, for a ten year old to be wearing!) platform shoes that came to me in a box from England did not go down well. And though I loved them, one withering look from Mrs May at the offending footwear meant that I would never wear them again. I will never forget them mind you.

It was when I was due to go to college in Dublin and indeed when I was in college, that Mrs May really came up trumps for me. Without Mrs May and her late husband Des, I would not in fact have been even able to go to college in Dublin. It is maybe hard to imagine it now, but back in the 1980s, getting to, and around, Dublin was very difficult. People from the West didn’t drive there like they do now. However Mr and Mrs May gave me and many others from Ballinrobe, countless lifts, over many years, to and around Dublin in their cars and in their camper-van. While I was in Dublin, they also provided me with support and direction in countless other ways, all done subtly and discreetly. Well, for the most part!

Mrs May is many things – a tireless campaigner for the pro-life movement and for Mayo-Roscommon Hospice. The current chairperson of Mayo-Roscommon Hospice is of course her daughter, Joanne. She is a fiercely loyal mother and grandmother. But to me, and to many of my contemporaries in Ballinrobe, she is the woman who stood quietly behind us and who, without being asked, stepped up and gave us a helping hand –and indeed a much needed lift-when we really needed it. In so doing, she made a huge difference in our lives. Thank you for doing so, Mrs May.

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