31 Mary Ellen Walsh nee Mullin, Kilkeeran, Kilmaine, Cill Mheáin

Mary Ellen Walsh nee Mullin, Kilkeeran, Kilmaine, Cill Mheáin
Mary Coleman
Mary Ellen Walsh and members of her family
Mary Coleman
Mary Ellen Walsh, Kilmaine
Mary Coleman

My mother Mrs Mary Ellen Walsh (nee Mullin of Kilkeeran, Kilmaine) from Rathgranagher, Hollymount, was born on 28th July 1931 which makes her 88 years old in 2019.

Marriage in 1953

Of her 88 years she has lived at her current home for 66 of those years after she married Jack at 22 years of age on 18th November 1953. Marrying at that time meant marriage for life “in sickness and in health, for better or for worse, till death do us part” which it did until suddenly after 20 years on 18th July 1973. In a Catholic marriage ceremony you accepted all the children God may send you and I think God must have got distracted at times as 13 children arrived in 18 years.

Rearing 13 Children

My mother is inspirational to us her children, for a number of outstanding reasons. Rearing that number of children in a small Congested Districts Board House and Farm, with no running water, no electrical equipment apart from light and a ringer washing machine, open fireplace, meant massive labour intensity at a stage when none of us were old enough to help.

Even if we could have, the patriarchal society in the 60s placed priority on farm work; securing our daily meals, caring for cattle, sheep and pigs and growing all our own vegetables. Mother slavishly slogged as much outside as inside. We never heard her lose the rag or complain. Admirable or what? That was her lot. She went out into the fields during wet Spring nights to check on ewes due for lambing, trudged sick sheep through muddy haggards if they needed a labour ward; meanwhile being 6-8 months pregnant herself. Bear in mind that 6 of us were born between April and June, the rest between December and February. So you can imagine her physical state!

Her advice when we married was you make your bed, you lie in it, and remember the man is always the boss!

Never put off till tomorrow…

One of her many mottoes was “never put off until tomorrow what you can do today”. Or in her upbeat days she’d pipe up “at it and to it and do it again. If you don’t do it when you’re let at it you won’t be let at it to do it again”. She wanted us all to do our best with what we’d got as she did, obviously.

If sheep needed attention in spring; pigs needed intensive care 24/7. She cared for those animals like babies, from dawn to dusk until she officially retired in the early noughties without a lump sum, without a grande holiday, without a big hurrah as she was not one for fanfare.

Hard Work

What is inspirational is that she worked so, so hard to provide for all of us. What is inspirational is that both our parents were Trojan workers together, selfless and caring but what makes our mother outstanding is that she was faced with child rearing and farm maintenance solely from the age of 42 onwards. Obviously we all, along with our wonderful neighbours and close relatives, put our shoulders to the wheel but she led by example. She was duty bound and accepting of her major role and responsibility.

On any Saturday she could be out feeding pigs, after the cattle, washing clothes or floors, making home grown cabbage, potato, turnip and home-cured bacon dinners for not alone us but our friends who’d stayed overnight or in- laws.

Visitors Welcome

Our five cousins would come (with their parents) to jump in the hay shed and Mother would have provisions for about 20 when the games were over! On a Sunday she could turn up to a family wedding in borrowed fur and finery and look so swell and be so proud of her big brood. Nothing was impossible to our mother and that is a big lesson that has inspired us. “How did I feed ye all”?

An Independent Widow and Travel

She became so independent after donning her widow’s cap. She drove aunts, neighbours, other widows and friends all around Connemara. She made speeches at weddings. She made time to visit her family in New York, Boston, Chicago, Iowa, her unseen uncle in California, London, her brother/sisters-in-laws in Wales and Birmingham. Whatever it took, she found a way. Her motto again and again “try and try again boys/you’ll succeed at last.

A Creative Woman

Mary Ellen, the widow, took on self-help courses in art, farming courses in Mountbellew Agricultural College, computer courses when she was semi-retired.  Even at 88 she believes nothing is impossible while she struggles to make her creative writing classes, active retirement meetings and knits red and green tea cosies, which have travelled as far apart as Hong Kong and New York.

Don’t get Old…

She pushes her walking frame while facing the ground, crippled with arthritis/ osteoporosis/diabetes with “don’t get old” being her mantra now! Her never-say-die attitude is what makes mother inspirational.

Her Guiding Spirit

Her generosity with not only her money but her time is what inspires us. It’s her lifelong selfless guiding spirit, her crazy, zany sense of humour, her magical poems for our special occasions, her countless stories, her jokes, her pride of place, her sense of belonging and the work it takes to belong, to reach out, to be a good neighbour, to look at other options even when you are cornered, as she was countless times in her life. It’s her love of children, her love of life despite its difficulties and demands that so inspire us.

Dealing with Challenges

She faced many challenges by talking them through with whoever listened be it on train or plane; she’d talk a problem until it wore away. What is inspirational is that her heart feels your problems too AND she shared your joys also with gifts galore in equal portions. She never failed to remember all her children’s and grandchildren’s birthdays or remember anniversaries or funerals; important times in friend’s lives.

An Inspirational Woman

She’s an amazing mother and grandmother and great grandmother.

Was a courageous, patient and loyal wife,

Is a tower of mental strength as a long time widow

A proud lady

Is a warm and welcoming mother in law,

Is a physically fragile but strong friend and companion.

Thank you to Maggie Ann Flannery and Johnny Mullin for bringing this little girl into this wonderful world on 28th July 1931.

Thank you to Jack and Mary Ellen for bringing all of us 13 into this world from 1955 to 1972 and sharing all your varied gifts with us all and for doing it in such a selfless and self-deprecating humble way. The best gift of all-monumental memories.


Members of Mary & Jack’s Family

Mary Walsh Coleman                Knock

P.J. Walsh                                Kilkelly

Evelyn Walsh Power                 Dublin

Brendan Walsh                        Kilmaine

Michael Walsh                         Castlebar

Kevin Walsh                            Kilmaine

Gabriel Walsh                          Westport

Austin Walsh                           Claremorris

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