The late Elizabeth (Eilish) Carrigy (nee Carthy) pictured with her son Jimmy Keary.
There was much sadness in the Rathowen area recently as news spread of the death of the much loved Eilish Carrigy.
A tireless worker all her life, Eilish was born Elizabeth Carthy in Cloonagh near Legan, on January 17 1922. She was one of a family of eleven.
Her early working life was spent as a priest’s housekeeper. During those years she worked for priests in counties Longford, Leitrim, Roscommon and Westmeath.
She had a very strong work ethic and on occasion was working for a priest in the Colmcille parish, which meant a cycle trip home of nineteen miles and the same back on a Monday morning.
Amongst her prized possession were two testimonials which her priest-employers wrote for her in the early fifties. One from Dean O’Kane in Granard in 1953 stated that: "She did her work faithfully, honestly and well". Another from Fr Cooke in Carrickboy in 1954 said that she was: "Industrious, honest, clean and trustworthy" and also "a very good cook".
She came to Rathowen with Fr Fallon where she met local man, Patrick Keary. They were married on February 8, 1956 and spent their honeymoon in Liverpool. Sadly their time together was short as Patrick died suddenly in May 1965, just a week before the seventh birthday of their beloved son, Jimmy Keary.
From then on, Eilish was both father and mother, and it was a role she embraced fully and managed wonderfully. They didn't have much but she was able to make a little go a long way.
The one thing that was always in abundance, however, was love. In more recent years, Jimmy Keary, emerged as a playwright of note and it is easy to find glimpses and reminders of his happy childhood in many instances of his work, which has been featured on stages at home and abroad.
For the future playwright, a noteworthy early memory was a trip to Longford town every second Saturday. The day in town would have begun with confessions with Fr McAuley, and afterwards, a cup of tea and a slice of jam sponge upstairs in Miss Donlon’s tea-rooms.
In 1973, Eilish met and married Vincent Carrigy, a merchant seaman, who was staying with friends near Legan when she met him. Sadly, he died in October 1989, making her a widow for a second time.
Eilish was a very devout, religious woman with an unshakeable faith. She had a particular devotion to Our Lady. She had been a Child of Mary as a child. Whenever she travelled in the car, she used to have a rosary beads in one hand and a statue of the Blessed Virgin in the other praying for the intentions of family and friends.
On one occasion her son was stopped at a Garda checkpoint, and when the Garda looked into the car and saw the religious items in his mother’s hands, the Garda remarked: “She hasn’t much faith in your driving!” On other occasions she happily sat and prayed on the sofa across from the playwright as he worked on his latest piece.
Eilish never drank nor smoked and was a lifelong member of the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association.
She was also a very intelligent woman but typical of so many women of her era, she never had the opportunity to go beyond national school. But what she learned there stayed with her for life.
In a wonderful eulogy at her Funeral Mass, her son recalled how if he had a maths problem at school, she would try to help him with it and would stick at it until she solved it. He recalled her staying up all night on a few occasions with a particular sum so that she’d have it done for him going to school the next morning.
Playing cards was one of her favourite pastimes. She particularly loved the game of twenty-five and indeed played it into her nineties. Jimmy fondly remembered growing up in the late sixties, and their next door neighbour, Rhoda Greene, and Fr McGarry’s housekeeper, Annie Forde, used to come to the house on a Sunday night to play cards.
When television finally arrived in the family home in 1968, it opened up a whole new world for Eilish. She particularly loved the comic antics of Laurel and Hardy as well as shows like ‘The Saint’, ‘The Big Valley’, and ‘Mannix’. She also loved a good murder mystery and would always try to identify the killer before he/she was revealed at the end of the programme. Most times she was right. She used to say she should have been a detective.
But, most of all, Eilish was a loving, devoted and selfless mother and friend, who was there for her son and a close knit circle of family and friends whenever she was needed.
She was fiercely proud when Jimmy was accepted to Maynooth University in the 1970s and when he came home at the weekends, she was always there to meet him coming off the bus in Rathowen village.
Come Sunday night, then, she went back to see him off on the bus and these are wonderful treasured memories.
In 2010 Eilish was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Jimmy cared for her at home for as long as he could and he certainly repaid the loving devotion that his mother had shown him in earlier years.
In the early days of her illness they had a chance to talk calmly about her death and what sort of funeral she wanted. Her biggest worry was that Jimmy would be upset when she was gone. She used to make him promise that he wouldn’t be, and told him: "Everyone will be telling you that she had a good long day!”
Eilish went to reside in the Inny Unit of Cluain Lir Nursing Home in Mullingar in August 2014 where she received loving and devoted care from the nurses and staff. She was there until her death on October 26, 2017 and she was two and a half months off her 96th birthday when she passed.
Elizabeth (Eilish) Carrigy (nee Carthy), late of Corrydonlon, Rathowen, was predeceased by her husband, Vincent Carrigy; and relict of Patrick Keary.
Her passing is deeply regretted by her loving son Jimmy Keary; her sisters, Nancy and Mamie; nieces, nephews, brothers-in-law, sister-in-law, cousins, relatives, neighbours and friends. Her remains reposed at Our Lady's Nursing Home Chapel, Edgeworthstown, before removal to St Mary's Church, Rathowen for Mass of the Resurrection and burial afterwards in Russagh Cemetery.