t was on Wednesday, January 20th 2021 that Anna O’Faherty slipped away…
The woman was, impressively, in her 92nd year.
And just what the girl formerly known as Anna O’Kane did with those 92 years, we’re going to let one her sons, Paul, reveal.
Here’s the wonderful eulogy he put together for this remarkable woman…
Thanks for all the messages of support and lovely memories people have shared with us over the past few days. Covid is a cruel disease and means that Mum can’t have the send off she – and we – would have expected and hoped for, but your support and the knowledge that many of you are watching and with us in spirit from afar means a lot to us
Anna was born on Friday, March 22nd 1929 in the townland of Cavan, which is in East Donegal between Stranorlar and Killygordon. Her parents were Eddie O’Kane and Mary O’Donnell. Mum was reared with her 3 sisters and 2 brothers on the family farm, and attended the local national school. One of the stories she liked to tell from those days was that she and her brother Denis used to hide their shoes on the way to school because they didn’t want to stand out as the only children in the school that had shoes. Very different times.
Anna’s 90th birthday party
All of her life, mum was a carer and for her nursing was the obvious clear choice. She started her training in 1948, in the Richmond hospital in Dublin. That was quite an adventure for an 18-year-old girl from Donegal in those days. She became a midwife and had many, many stories of cycling around the Liberties in the early ’50s delivering babies. She was the original Call the Midwife – a program she loved.
In a fairly exotic move for the times, back in 1952, Anna and four of her closest lifelong friends spent a very happy year nursing in Jersey. She also nursed for a while in what is now in the community hospital in Killybegs. While her official nursing career ended when she got married to our dad, Donal, she used to say “Once a nurse always a nurse” – and for many years she was the go-to person around Greystones for sound medical advice. Her diagnoses were nearly always right – something that was true for her actually in most things.
She met our dad in Salthill in 1954, and they married not long after, on September 8th, 1956. He was a Greystones native and mum very quickly became one too. They raised their 5 children in Minfield on Church Road and made a lovely home for us there. Though the death their daughter, Catherine, as a baby in 1961 was an enormous blow.
Anna and Donal had a great life together. Sadly, they had just celebrated their 25th anniversary when dad was tragically killed in an accident. That was obviously a massive loss to us all but especially to mum – she had lost the love of her life. Being the strong warrior that she was though, mum soldiered on, finishing the job of rearing us while creating a new life for herself. Although, of course, there was always a void.
She was a fantastic mother, hugely ambitious for the 5 of us and immensely proud of anything we achieved, no matter how big or small – and that continued right up to her dying day. She was always willing to give advice – whether we asked for it or not! – and she had opinions which she was not shy of sharing. I got ticked off a few weeks ago for wearing denim jeans at my age!
Bridge became a very big part of mum’s life as a widow and she made a huge contribution to the growth of the game in Greystones. She helped establish the Bridge Centre and founded the Errigal Bridge Club – note the Donegal theme – as a place for people like herself her (on their own) to play bridge on a Friday night. The club is still going strong. A disappointment to her was that none of us – despite much encouragement – play bridge, but I gather she was a bit of a shark at the card table. Comments which have been posted include references to her being a fine player and being a formidable – I am sure in a nice way – opponent. Mum stopped playing bridge about 18 months ago but she still had a strong competitive streak. I asked her how she got on after one of her last games and she said she and her partner had done badly – and then added they had only come in second!
I think it would be fair to say that mum was an extrovert. She loved a gathering – any gathering – and meeting people. If chatting was an Olympic sport, she would’ve won gold for Ireland many times. She had an amazing recall of people and details.
Bridge and mass were part of mum’s life both for what they were in themselves but as just as importantly as a way of staying in touch with her many, many friends – Mary Darcy, Elizabeth, Dolores, Rose, Dympna, Shiela, Kay, Maura, Mary Huggard, to name just a few.
Place was very important to mum. She was the proudest Donegal person you could ever meet. Despite spending 65 years in Wicklow, she never lost her accent. In any conversation and in any place, she had a knack for finding a Donegal connection or sniffing out a Donegal person. While Donegal was her favourite place, a very close second was Greystones – the town she came to love – and her bit of heaven was the seafront. She always said a walk around the seafront was a cure for everything. We will take one last trip there with her after this mass.
Mum loved her garden, especially more so in recent years – as her world grew smaller her garden grew bigger in her life. I can still picture mum last summer, sitting in her chair directing operations, and telling Daisy she would turn her into a gardener yet!
I said mum was a proud mother but her pride as a nana was off the charts. She just loved her grandchildren – Rory, Louis, Alison, Jane, Ciaran, Susie, Orla, Eoin, Ryan – who was so special to her – Lucy and Zoe. It’s such a pity you can’t all be here in person but I know you are watching and with us in spirit. Your nana loved your visits and calls; hearing your news and taking pride in your achievements. And she was thrilled to meet and welcome as GG her great grandchildren, James and Ailbhe.
To finish, there were two Donals in Mum’s life. Our dad, who she spent 25 wonderful years with, and our brother, Donal, who lived with her for all of his 55 years. She cared and looked out for Donal for many years but the roles reversed in recent years. Thank you, Donal, you were an amazing carer and companion.
Mum is now in heaven – in the Donegal section if there is one – reunited with the O’Kane clan and with dad and Catherine.
Mum, your memory though will always live on with us. Goodbye for now. We love you…
You can read a poem for Anna O’Faherty by her granddaughter, Susan, here.
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