Ladies and gentlemen, may I present the maireaddoyle.com Woman of the Year – my mother, Margaret Doyle.
Mum has had a long and busy life. Born in Palmerstown (county Dublin as she will always remind us), she lived her early life with her mother and three sisters in a white-washed cottage. Her father died when she was a baby, and my grandmother (Mama) supported her family by working as a seamstress in the Stewarts Hospital nearby.
With a seamstress mother, my mum and the other Donoghue girls were always very well dressed. Mum would boast that she would only need to show Mama a picture of a frock she wanted, and it would be reproduced perfectly.
Mum was also a great dancer, and she went to dances every week with her friends and sisters, often cycling as far away as Leixlip or further to go to the best places. It was at a dance she met my dad (a previous Man of the Year of course!) and they married in 1953. And yes, Mama made the wedding gown.
It was a happy marriage although they both readily admit there were some hard times too. But the annual dinner dance was always something to look forward to, with the men in their best suits and the women dressed in Ginger Rogers-style frocks (my parents are second couple from the right).
Whilst raising four children, she also worked in the local school from when I was about a year old to December 2005 believe it or not – retiring finally, and with a huge party, at age 79. Her sister, my auntie Molly, also worked with her there, and they were very close as a result (this is Mum and Molly at a family wedding in 1973 – great outfits!).Up until her retirement she regularly cycled to the school across the fields at the back of our house, which is why she has better legs than any of her daughters!
My mother has always been a stylish woman, although like myself she doesn’t often look well in a hat (or welding helmet as on this occasion).
But no matter what she wore, my Dad always thought she was gorgeous.
And to confirm their devotion to one another, a huge party was held in celebration of their 50th wedding anniversary in August 2003.
We all inherited our love of food from my mother – a woman who has quoted “reading menus” as one of her pastimes (seen here checking out local cuisine in Cornwall).
But this is the only documented occurence of her buying a drink in a pub.
It was a difficult year or so for my mum: we lost her sister Molly in September 2004, then her best friend and longtime neighbour Marie Kenny in April 2005, just four weeks before my dad died. But, as somebody remarked around that time, she is one classy lady, and she went through those hard weeks and months with determination and dignity.
She has always been welcoming to her prodigal daughters (me and Mena) when we visit, and no matter how far away she is, she is always on the end of the phone if we want to talk to her.
But she relies very much on Annette, who lives in Dublin, and has spent a lot of time with her since Dad died.
However we daughters know we can never hold a candle to her beloved Son Boy – the only son of an Irish woman is hard to beat!
The family visited me in London before we left, and she showed her adventurous side by visiting (and cleaning her plate in) a Chinatown restaurant with her extended family. And she walked rings around her children and grandchildren too!
We are all really proud to have her as a mother, a grandmother, and a mother-in-law. I won’t tell her age as she would be mad, but I think all would agree she looks great still. And don’t I look just like her?!!!