Maybe 100 years was what it took to finish what she started in 1913….

by Author on October 31, 2013

A few weeks after her 100th birthday celebrations, the same people gathered together to say their last farewells to my mum. It seemed almost as if she had held on to make sure her extended family, and all of the friends and neighbors who knew her so well could share that last big party before she faded away, very peacefully in the end. The feeling on the day was that rare thing for a funeral – celebrating a remarkable life.

The eulogy read on the day is perhaps the best way to mark the day and remember her.

A Eulogy for Margaret Mallaghan: Sep. 18th 1913 – Oct. 22nd 2013

“Just over 100 years ago, on September 18th 1913, Margaret Shaw was born down in the Faskine. The following year saw the start of the First World War – although despite the rumours there was no connection between these two events!

She has witnessed so much in those 100 years, and a level of change we are unlikely to ever see again. Two insane world wars; growing up in a world with no cars, no telephones let alone smartphones and she was already a pensioner when the first Personal Computer was sold. She has seen the role of women evolve from not having the vote or any realistic access to education, through the suffragettes to seeing her daughters and grand-daughters having equal opportunities and real choices open to them.

As many of you will know, she loved doing her crosswords, and 1913 was the year when the first ever crossword was published in a newspaper.

Before the start of the Second World War, Margaret’s parents and their growing family, along with her grandmother, packed up all of their belongings and carried them along the canal banks all the way to the village of Calderbank. We have it on good authority that the wardrobe was the hardest thing to carry! Although only a mile and a half away, that journey must have felt like a huge leap into the unknown. Margaret herself must have been excited by it all – and no doubt took charge and made sure it all went smoothly. And she would definitely have put the kettle on as soon as the family arrived!

Calderbank itself was undergoing big changes. The old steelworks and many of the local mines that fed them had closed by the time the Shaws moved there, but the rows of old miner’s cottages still sat side by side with the new council houses being built. 11 Fir View became Margaret’s home for next twenty years or so, seeing out another world war and her own brothers and sisters being married.

In 1950, Margaret married John Mallaghan, all the way from Holytown, two miles away. Her mother remarked when Margaret told her she wanted to get married:

“Yir Goin a lang way for a man, Maggie!”

Margaret and John soon had brought 4 children into the world, and by this time 11 Fir View had the six Mallaghans, Granma Shaw and Rosina Shaw all living there. The old miner’s rows were being replaced by new council houses, so it was time for the next big change. Margaret and her family packed up and moved again, this time half way up Fir View and first right around to 3 Calder Street. By this time Margaret was combining being a great mother to her four Children with looking after her own mother who was housebound, while also being actively involved in the community and the parish.

Margaret’s life has always been centred on the Catholic Church, her faith, and an unquestioning belief in real Christian values. She never put herself first, and for all of her life her motivation and real happiness came from helping others. When she was in her 80s she talked about “helping the old people” as she still worked with the Luncheon Club she had helped to start up. Margaret never expected any reward for her work, but nothing gave her more pride than the “Diocesan medal of Honour” presented to her by the Bishop in 1998. For years she would be seen running the little stall at the back of the Church where no matter how many items you wanted to buy, she, sharp to the end, would work out the cost in a flash with no need for a calculator! She was 94 years old the last day she worked on the stall!

Margaret has left behind 4 children, 7 grandchildren and 8 great grandchildren. She met all of them, with even the latest great grandchild, only 3 months old, getting a huge hug at her 100th birthday celebrations. It has been touching to see all of the posts on Facebook after she died from family and friends that show the effect a lovely old lady can have across the generation divide. She would have quietly been really pleased to hear what people were saying about her.

Margaret Mallaghan was a very special lady, who had a lasting effect on everyone who knew her. Throughout her 100 years she has been an inspiration. She has seen the world over a century from the same vantage points – in or near Calderbank, the Parish of Corpus Christi and of course her own family, always driven by the simple belief that families – and communities – take care of each other through the ups and downs, and especially when people can’t easily take care of themselves. We can all learn from Margaret, and if we have all become just a wee bit of a better person for having known her, then she has made a real difference.

When Margaret’s husband John wrote his poem “The Knitter” as he sat by the fire one cold winter night watching her knit a Fair Isle jumper, he captured perfectly what Margaret stood for. He knew how important she was to him and his family. Using knitting as a metaphor for families, and life, he knew that is what Margaret was born to be; that Knitter who was the bond, the fulcrum of his family that bound it together, helping each of the family members to develop into the best they could possibly be.

Margaret’s legacy will not be measured in possessions and money, but in something much more important. She has left the world a better a place for having spent 100 years on it, so it’s up to the rest of us to take things forward. We all know where Margaret is now, and I’m sure her place will have been have been prepared a long time ago.

On behalf of the whole extended family, thanks for all of the help, kindness and friendship that the people of Calderbank and the parish have shown her in the last 100 years!”

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