A woman you don’t meet every day

Mary Cunningham

Mary Cunningham

There are people who do great things for their city by virtue of the position they hold; that an extra element of their public role enables them to do with ease the good things that make a difference to those who need a bit of a lift in life. These people are worthy and deserving of our acclamation for the good they do.

And then there are people who give of themselves for the betterment of their communities in a role far removed from what they do in an everyday capacity. They do great works, they cajole and organise; they give of their own time so that somebody somewhere will have a better life. And they have to work harder to get things done because it comes straight from the soul and not the role.

Into this category fell the great Mary Cunningham. Mary passed away last week after a lifetime of service to the places she worked and to the city she loved. In her time with us, she was a mainstay in the goodness of Galway city. Her delicate laugh, her ever so well maintained smile, her lively eye encouraging her students and her colleagues and her friends and associates to become part of whatever team she was assembling for the task in hand.

I cannot believe that she has passed and I still expect to have the phone ring and to hear her open her request with “well, Declan Varley, here’s what you can do for me now.” And because I had known Mary for so long and was never in any doubt about the veracity of the work she was undertaking, more often than not, whatever request she made would be acceded to without any great protest from my side.

I first encountered Mary in the then Galway RTC in the 1980s, when I somehow ended up in one of her typing classes. A lifelong two-fingered typist, there was no way that I ever fell under the spell of her magical touch, but nevertheless, these few fingers have managed to help her promote her many events over the years.

When I look back among the photographic archives of the Advertiser, I see she features prominently, and on almost all occasions, she would have been working the room for the goodness of others. I am sure that by seeing her picture here today, you will see the mischievous smile that she used to disarm everyone into doing the right thing.

To her sister Julie with whom she shared many an adventure, to Pauline and Michael, and to her extended family, I pass on my deepest condolences. However, I do not think Mary is gone far. The spirit of her generosity has stayed in all our hearts...and I look at the phone and await its ring. RIP Mary, you were one of a kind.


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