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My Greystones: Beatrice Gunning

MYGREYSTONES beatrice gunning 14JULY16 - Copy (2)
When Noah was building his ark, there’s a very strong chance that Beatrice Gunning was there, banging away with her hammer.

Man, think of a Greystones club, group, committee or army, and, chances are, young Gunning was one of the founders.

Beatrice was there at the very start of the Greystones Tidy Towns. She was one of the founders of The Greystones Active Retirement Association. The Credit Union. St David’s. Greystones Cancer Support. The Kilcoole Klu Klux Klan Kung Fu Kickers Corporation.

You name it, son, Beatrice Gunning has been there, adminned that, and has the certs and awards to prove it.

Frank Doyle & John Gunning

Blessed to live in one of the finest central Greystones houses that ever there was – that large chunk of beauty just hiding behind Paraphenalia, where La Touche Close meets La Touche Place – Beatrice was lucky enough to have been born and raised here. And it was in that great, big beautiful house that she and husband John reared their four kids, Avril, Alvin, Roberta and – ten years after all the others – Ian.

When I swung by recently for a chat, it didn’t take long for the 91 years of Greystones memories to come flooding out. Being involved with all those clubs and associations is clearly something Beatrice is very proud of, and rightly so. Doing that Home Economics course in Wesley College, and how that led to a lifetime of making Christmas and wedding cakes. The world tour with the likes of Tom Swann and Kathleen Martin, as part of The Thirties Club Committee. Being treasurer of the Greystones Development Association, a 1940s early runner for today’s Municipal District Council – “And we were battling dog poo even then,” offers Beatrice.

Tess Byrne, May Verbuggen, Mary Byrne, Nora Ferns, Bertrice Gunning & Bridie Mooney have a Grand Day Out

One of those early memories that sparks the biggest laugh from Beatrice though is the Great Spongecake Train Robbery.

“We were on the usual 5-to-4 train from Harcourt Street, back home after college,” she smiles. “There was a competition, and I’d baked this wonderful spongecake. We didn’t have cake tins back then, so, I had to wrap it in grease paper, trying my best not to let it get damaged.

“All the girls were sitting together, as always, and the boys there – including Neville Doyle, and Harry Stringer, and Charlie Harris – clearly had their eye on this cake. Well, when we hit the long tunnel, all the lights in the train went out. And when they came back on, my spongecake was gone.”

Beatrice lets out a mighty roar.

Naturally, being Greystones, Beatrice remembers my dad delivering vegetables, and heading up to our old neighbours on Blackberry Lane, the Hills, as a little girl, to help with the rabbits. Everyone knows everyone around here.

“I really hope it stays like that,” finishes Beatrice. “We’ve gone from a small village in my time to a big town, and there are days when I can sit outside the chipper, and I wouldn’t know anyone. We really do need to stop and talk with one another.

“It’s not the buildings, or the landmarks, or the tourist attractions, that make a town – it’s the people. And Greystones has always had more than its fair share of wonderful people…”

Few of them, I think it would be fair to say, have been quite as wonderful, and as giving, as Beatrice Gunning. 

Sadly, Beatrice passed away on Saturday, April 22nd 2017. She’ll be sorely missed…

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