Northern Ireland news


Pat Hume's talent, courage and grace was ever present

Pat Hume was a woman of talent, courage and grace
Seamus McKinney

For anyone who knew John Hume, it was clear that all of his political achievements flowed from the complete oneness that existed with his wife Pat.

For journalists, even the briefest encounter with Pat left no doubt that she was a woman of immense talent, courage and – more than anything else – grace.

Pat was John’s strength. Without her, he admitted that he would have found it more difficult to achieve his political aims and ultimately his life’s mission of establishing peace.

There is a poignancy in the fact that Pat died so soon - just over a year - after her husband’s death at the age of 83 last August.

Despite personal attacks on her husband as he immersed himself completely in the struggle to find a way out of the Troubles, Pat remained the backroom engine, rearing their family and always quietly providing the support and advice that he needed.

That was never more evident than when John broke down in tears at the 1993 funeral of one of the Greysteel massacre victims. A family member told the Nobel peace laureate they prayed for him around their loved one’s coffin and John turned in tears to Pat for strength, burying his head on her shoulder.

She was always at his side through the successes and difficulties, meeting world leaders, friends and enemies. Her humility often softening her husband’s sometimes rougher edges.

Following his retirement, Pat continued to be John’s defender as his mind and memory started to drift further and further.

Often, I would call to their then West End Park home for a comment from John and, as he struggled to find the words, he would turn to his wife and say “Pat, how would you say that” and she was always there with the ready words.

When his memory was fading, she defended his reputation in her gentle way that belied that inner strength. No journalist would ever presume Pat was a soft touch, a misplaced question left no doubt that a line was being crossed.

The last time I spoke to Pat was in May when she attended the official hand-over of John’s three peace prizes, the Nobel, Gandhi and Martin Luther King awards to Derry City and Strabane council. She told me in that same gentle way that she had been treated for cancer but, always putting aside her own difficulties, was “doing fine”.

The people of Ireland know they were lucky to have had John Hume as their champion; they should be deeply grateful that he and they also had Pat. I, as a journalist and Derry man, feel nothing but pride and privilege to be able to say, they were my friends.

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