Lives Remembered

Kathleen Cairns: Mother-of-16 left great memories from her 98 years on earth

Kathleen Cairns had 16 children - eight boys and eight girls

THERE was a mixture of sadness and joy when Kathleen Cairns made her final exit from this world to eternal life.

Having reached the noble age of 98, the oldest parishioner in Tullylish in Co Down, she has left us with many great memories from her time on this earth.

Kathleen's parents, Patrick Green and Jane Toman, met through an arranged marriage and had eight children, of which she was the second youngest.

Born in 1920, she was predeceased by all her family including a brother and sister who died in the great flu which followed the First World War.

William was just eight, while Rebecca died aged seven the following day. Both were buried on March 16 1918 - 100 years to the day before Kathleen was carried to her final resting place.

It was at a neighbour's wake that she was introduced to her future husband, Seamus Cairns. The wedding was short, with a breakfast celebration that morning and a return to work in the afternoon.

They went on to have 16 children and, not wanting to be biased, there were eight boys and eight girls.

Seamus was the legislator while Kathleen was the enforcer, with one look enough to regain order but always followed with kind words when you complied.

Kathleen had great patience but if you crossed her - as Brian Faulkner, prime minister at the time, discovered - it was not a good idea.

Once Brian and his huntsmen strayed into Kathleen's garden. After enquiring as to who the lady with the brush was, he soon beat a hasty exit.

Kathleen’s first encounter of “real life” was when she was 16. A very good seamstress, she was refused work in embroidery due to the apartheid system in operation then, where other factors decided your fate. Kathleen was hurt but not bitter.

In later years, she lost three grandchildren, Sheena, Rory and Gerard, to the hostilities that existed in our land at that time.

Kathleen would continue to experience more heartache as three more of her grandchildren departed this world, Joseph, Pól & Aoife.

Despite these tragedies, she always maintained due to her strong faith that they were in a better place and she never let it dent her devotion to the man above.

She experienced good fortune too in later life, winning €123,000 through the Irish lottery.

In her twilight years, Kathleen continued to sit down with her adversaries, people who had opposite views to her own.

Many people talk about forgiveness but don’t forgive. Kathleen forgave but didn’t talk about it. She prayed for the offender not the offended.

Finally Kathleen, we bid you farewell.

In your final days you always liked to sing the hymn Jesus Remember Me, When You Come Into Your Kingdom. Kathleen, remember us now you are in the Kingdom.

Kathleen Cairns died peacefully surrounded by her loving family on March 14. Predeceased by her husband, she is survived by her 16 children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great grandchildren.

Her month's mind Mass will be celebrated at St Colman's Church at 7.30pm today.

The Cairns family

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Lives Remembered