Una Boylan: Armagh speech therapist brought light and love on stage
UNA Boylan's acting life began when she was just one year old.
One night in 1941, when German planes flew over Armagh, she found herself wrapped in a white blanket when her family fled to the countryside before the air raid sirens sounded.
Arriving at a house outside the city, her parents knocked on the door but despite obvious presence inside no-one answered.
Later the occupants would say they thought the white blanket belonged in fact to a German parachute.
A quarter of a century later, Una joined Armagh Theatre Group shortly after its foundation and before long she was an essential part of the company.
Her enthusiasm was infectious and she recruited to the ranks at every opportunity.
Dozens of young and not so young actors got their 'break' on stage due to her cajoling and encouragement.
Una held positions from vice-chair and chair to president while still acting and producing plays, as well as raising the necessary funds to keep the group afloat thanks to decades of raffles.
During times when violence and disturbances were daily occurrences she, along with others in the group, provided a vital cross-community outlet, resulting in the vibrant drama and arts community that continues to blossom in Armagh city today.
Una's last performance on stage was in 2016 in 'Twos' but she was scheduled to take part in a comedy this autumn, to be held in her beloved Abbey Lane Theatre.
Armagh Theatre Group will forever be indebted to her drive, enthusiasm and good humour in her efforts to bring live drama to the people of Armagh.
Born on Good Friday 1940 in Arthur Villas in the city, Una had attended St Catherine’s Primary School and St Louis' Convent, Kilkeel, before returning to Sacred Heart Grammar in Armagh for her final year.
It was at that point she became aware of speech therapy as a possible career.
Little was known about it at the time and she had quite a fight with education authorities to approve a training grant.
She won that battle and set off to London for three years' training - believed to be the first from Northern Ireland to do so.
Having successfully completed the course Una returned to take up a position as a speech therapist in Armagh.
Soon the importance of the work became evident and led, as was her hope and drive, to the establishment of a school of speech therapy.
Una was also actively involved in the Armagh and district branch of the U3A (University of the Third Age) from its inception in 2011.
Having been a member of the Newry branch, she realised the benefits it could provide for retired people in her home city and gathered together others who were inspired by her interest and enthusiasm and an organising committee was formed.
She was the obvious choice for the first chairperson and oversaw the growth and development of the branch to the more than 200 members who avail of a wide range of activities and events today.
Una Boylan died a few days after her 78th birthday on March 27.
She will be much missed by her sister Lila, her brother Sean, her nieces, nephews, great-nieces and great-nephews and cousins.
She will though be remembered by that light and love she gave and which we will carry and continue to spread in her memory.