The late Catherine Duggan Gurteen, Ballymahon, Longford. Picture: RIP.ie
As the town of Ballymahon came to a standstill last Thursday afternoon, November 26, Thanksgiving, the poignant sound of the church bells was a heartbreaking reminder of what the people had lost, but also of what they had to be thankful for: the pleasure of knowing the late Catherine Duggan.
Local businesses closed and people arrived to the town to pay their respects and show their support for a family who had just suffered the tragic loss of one of their own to a road accident on Monday afternoon, November 23.
Students and staff of Mercy Secondary School formed a guard of honour at the church, where they were joined by many of Catherine’s former school friends, work colleagues, neighbours and acquaintances.
The funeral mass, celebrated by Fr Liam Murray, was an intimate affair but was streamed via St Matthews’ Church Facebok page so that those who could not attend due to Covid-19 restrictions could still be a part of the farewell.
A past pupil of St Matthew’s National School, and Mercy Secondary School, the 45-year-old mother was a former Girl Guide and very much an integral part of Ballymahon society from a young age.
She travelled to New York in 1995 where she took up a career in fashion and beauty, moving to Los Angeles for a time before returning to Ireland in 2005 to be with her loving parents, Stephen and Cissie, and putting her eye for style to good use in the boutiques of Mullingar.
“Catherine had a gifted eye for recognising the simple, uncluttered and unfussy elegance in both fashion and home decoration,” said her close friend Paul Barry in his eulogy last Thursday.
“She understood the importance of making a house into a home, with rooms decorated in classical colours and antique furnishings. Never too much or too little, but just enough to be right, tasteful, warm and inviting.
“She took such an avid interest in helping her friends and family clothe and decorate that many of us here today will have a constant and happy reminder in their home of Catherine’s creative talent. She could take the proverbial sow’s ear and, given the time and means, turn it into a silk purse, as she did with me on a couple of occasions. It takes a lady to make a gentleman.”
Catherine’s greatest love was her family. She was adored by her late father Stephen and devoted to her mother, Cissie. She was also a doting mother to Lilly, sparing no expense to ensure she would get the best childhood, education and participate in a wide variety of activities.
“This became Catherine’s greatest pleasure. No matter what hardship, suffering or sickness Catherine was enduring, Lilly’s day was planned to perfection,” said Paul, referring to the young mother’s battle with cancer .
“She had a remarkable inner resilience, no matter what setbacks or what dreams were crushed. She never gave up,” said Paul.
“She would dream a new dream or make a new plan. Sometimes, for Catherine, life took so much and gave back very little. But the flames of hope and tomorrow never died in her heart.”
Her love of fine cuisine is something that her friends remember most about Catherine, who would always be up for dinner in a nice restaurant, or afternoon tea with her friends who enjoyed her efforts to help them escape from “the banality” of their weekly routines and spend a few hours enjoying the finer things in life.
“Catherine taught us and inspired us to live life to its fullest and to savour its beauty. After all, what other or better purpose could there be? We loved her for that,” Paul reflected.
“A night at the panto with the kids? Let’s do it. A spa day away? Leave it to me. There’s a Beyonce concert coming up. Will I get tickets? A trip to the States - the prices look good. Let’s go next week. Yes, that was Catherine, who helped us to live. She was the ultimate dream maker.
“Another aspect of Catherine’s personality, which shone through, as a personal friend, was the way in which she challenged us - our old and stagnant points of view. She was engaging and intellectual to talk with - a sounding board, a real confidant.
“She could be blunt and tough when she desired but mostly, she was soft, loving, affectionate, compassionate and considerate.”
Catherine was very spiritual and loved inspirational quotes, which helped her to achieve her goals. She loved books and amazed her friends with her appetite for novels.
She had a large collection of magazines, with dog eared pages and cutouts, which she kept for future reference. Her personality shone through in every aspect of her life and her loss will be felt deeply by all who knew her.
“Her interest in all things spiritual, meditation, her belief in angels and a higher power and a greater purpose, exploring these ideas over long coffees with friends. Her interest in butterflies and baubles and lights and Christmas and especially her most favourite, yearly celebration, Thanksgiving. Today is Thanksgiving,” said Paul, before addressing her daughter.
“Lilly, may you always have the now treasured memory of spending last Sunday evening, carefully putting up the most exquisite and splendid Christmas tree, with your mother. And may you always keep the true joy and spirit of Christmas alive in your heart.”
Catherine is predeceased by her father Stephen, and she will be sadly missed by her loving daughter Lilly, her mother Cissie and Lilly’s dad Ger, her aunts, uncles, cousins, relatives and her dearest friends, as well as the wider community.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a h-anam dílis.