“Wherever a beautiful soul has been, there is a trail of beautiful memories.”
The death of Úna McNicholl (neé Donlon), Lucan and formerly of Longford, on December 2 last came so painfully unexpected. Her petite frame belied her enormous vitality and dynamism so the loss of such an energetic presence has left a gaping emptiness for so many.
A Longfordian to the core and proud of it, (raised firstly in Earl Street and later Ardnacassa), Úna was born a performer. Her prodigious talent became apparent at an early age with the role of tiny Gretl in a Convent of Mercy production of ‘The Sound of Music’.
During her school years there, she excelled at gymnastics and Irish dancing. She was a member of Sr Cecilia’s Orchestra and later, as a trainee ballet teacher, choreographed a 1988 production of ‘The Wizard of Oz’ produced by Sr Angela Bracken.
An ardent supporter of ‘Tops of the Town’ (spearheaded by her dad, Tony Donlon), on more than one occasion she stepped in at the 11th hour to turn a near-choreographic disaster into a chorus line. As a student in Dublin she joined the Rathmines and Rathgar Musical Society, dancing her way through an impressive repertoire.
Úna was fortunate to work at what she loved and as a qualified teacher she established dance schools in Longford, Carrick-on-Shannon, Roscommon and Castlebar, nurturing several award-winning protégés. In 2011, she was appointed President of the Irish Dance Teachers Association (IDTA). For the past 10 years, she adjudicated for the Macra na Feirme Talent Competition. In all aspects of her work, she was the consummate professional, dedicated to what she did best.
More than anything, Úna was great fun to be with – as reflected by her multitude of friends. Never taking life too seriously, her cheerfulness and positive attitude shone in her speech and every action – even her wardrobe ! With her sunny personality, she had the marvellous ability to extend herself to others and took great care to maintain friendships. She had a wonderful (real wicked!) sense of humour, a razor-sharp wit and a highly infectious laugh.
The fifth of six children (sisters Terri (Jackson), Geraldine (Mulvey), Dympna (Condra) and Renie, brother John) to Dympna and the late Tony Donlon and a central force in their extensive clans, family was vitally important to Úna. If she thought (often!) about a family get-together or an excuse for a party, it happened. If she decided on it, it was done.
Without any doubt whatsoever, Úna’s greatest joys were the accomplishments of her four children - Daniel, Aislínn, Dara and Conor. Her greatest accomplishment was being their mother and a wife to Colm (Glenullin, Co Derry). A frantically busy working mum, she ran her household with meticulous order, creative flair and tremendous pride.
Úna’s time on earth may have been short but her impact is extensive and enduring. There is always one more thing to say, or ten things, indeed a thousand things. Suffice to say she is missed dreadfully. Perhaps author Katherine Mansfield’s words best express this : “Bless you, my darling , and remember you are always in the heart – oh tucked so close there is no chance of escape – of your sister”.
- Terri Jackson (neé Donlon)