I first came to know Mary Meade, née Fitzgibbon, when she enrolled as a student at St.Mary’s Secondary School, Askeaton, in September 1947. Having successfully attainedthe Intermediate Certificate, Mary completed her post primary studies at the F.C.J.convent in Bruff, since St Mary’s didn’t offer a senior cycle at that time.
From there she proceeded to U.C.G., graduating with a B.A. and Higher Diploma in Education in 1956. By then, enrolment at St. Mary.s had increased sufficiently to merit employing a teacher of French and Latin.. Mary , having these subjects in her degree, applied for the job, was appointed and filled that position with distinction until her retirement at the age of 65.
Those who knew her as a teacher will remember her wonderful stentorian voice as it wafted out over the river Deel from the open windows of the library, where Mean ScoilMhuire was first established. Indeed, many learned the rudiments of the French language without ever entering the school.! . But the voice which may have betokened a forbidding presence, revealed itself to be that of a caring and dedicated teacher who “if severe in aught, the love she bore to learning was at fault”. In truth Mary was a softie and her bark was an unconvincing camouflage for a tender heart.
Her degree subjects were French and Latin and while Latin is no longer taught as widely as heretofore, nor is it essential for entry to University ,as it once was, Mary instilled in her pupils the many benefits to be derived from study of that language,in helping with systematic structured thinking…. This affinity with Latin, albeit a dead language, is to be found in the motto of Coláiste Mhuire, ‘Laborare est orare’, to work is to pray. Indeed this motto might well be applied to Mary’s life, for she was a dedicated teacher ,mentor and manager and her life was one long prayer.
Mary had the unique ability of bringing out the best in all students, especially the weaker ones. She was firm, fair and had high expectations, while maintaining an open, friendly and relaxed relationship in which students blossomed ..
In 1994, Mary assumed the role of Principal. In this role, which she held while still teaching, she exemplified the qualities of fairness, courtesy and kindness. Following her retirement, a vacancy arose on the Board of the newly constituted Coláiste Mhuire. Mary again answered the call to service and became a representative of the Trustees on the Board of the new school.
In the foregoing, I have remembered Mary as an outstanding teacher and a very dear colleague, but Mary was a lady of many parts. As the youngest of Tom and Olive Fitzgibbon’s five children, not only did she excel at cooking, she also participated in the work of the dairy, which was attached to their beautiful home – a landmark building in the Main Street in Askeaton. She proudly boasted that she often milked the cows before coming to school in the morning. Gardening was her principal past-time. She loved her Spring garden and she awaited impatiently for the blossoming of the tulips, narcissi, daffodils and fresias which she had tended with loving care and which she could admire fondly, while relaxing in the porch of her home. She excelled at cooking and her house was not only a gathering place for all her family and extended family but also welcomed her many friends and acquaintances. Nobody left her house without being entertained to tea and her lovely home-baked scones, chocolate and coffee cakes. Mary was also a
keen bridge player and won many competitions at Foynes’ Bridge Club where her sister Betty(R.I.P) and herself played weekly.
In 1972 Mary married Joe Meade and together they travelled widely. They cruised on the Q.E.2 to Canada and the United States. They holidayed in Russia and in most of the European countries. They attended Operas and Musicals together and thoroughly enjoyed their retirement.
Above and beyond all Mary was a deeply religious lady, a daily Mass goer and communicant, with great devotion to The Sacred Heart and Our Blessed Lady.
I’m sure that she is now enjoying The Beatific Vision in the company of her husband, her parents and her sisters who have preceded her.
Mary lived her entire life in Askeaton and contributed enormously in so many ways. Her passing leaves a void in the Main Street. She will be fondly remembered as a dedicated teacher, an educationalist, a community member but mostly a good friend.
I Líonta Dé go gcastar sinn.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a h-anam dílis