Lives Remembered

'If the tide was out, so were Tilly and Ta'

Tilly and Ta Hanna on the boat they used to fish crabs and lobster

THERE was a saying in the Hanna household that if the tide was out, so were Tilly and Ta.

Tilly Hanna was famous in Kilclief, Co Down for her dressed crab and lobsters, caught each day in their boat at the mouth of Strangford Lough and specially prepared for local restaurants.

It was a full family affair: if the couple themselves weren't out checking the creels and cutting dulse, or combing the shoreline for 'willicks' (winkles), some of their four boys and nephew Barry were out in their place.

The catch was then brought home and boiled by the five girls in a vast famine pot, the crabs cracked open with a rolling pin, meat scooped out and readied with a secret recipe in the upturned shell for sale in The Lobster Pot as 'Tilly Hanna's dressed crab'.

With such a large family, Tilly was also famous for her sodas, wheaten bread and apple tarts, baked to perfection to ensure no-one complained of hunger.

She was famed for her generosity and hospitality, with Phil Coulter among the many to drop by. No-one left the house empty handed.

Tilly was born Mary Elizabeth Hanna in 1942 in Kilclief to Tony and Katie King, one of four girls and three boys.

She was a pupil at the local St Malachy's PS and St Anne's Intermediate School in Ardglass before starting working life as a nanny to twins in Belfast and training as a nurse at the Downshire Hospital in Downpatrick.

Tilly married local man Tommy Hanna - known as 'Ta Ha' - who was a skipper on the Strangford ferry and they worked every free moment to provide for their growing family.

The couple built their own boat in their old schoolhouse in Kilclief which they used as their workshop. The parish priest blessed it and they both remained safe throughout their years on the sea.

Twenty years ago they moved to the Forge on the Shore Road where they had a great sea view with the boat in plain sight.

Tilly's other love was bingo - her children remember how the 'Bingo bus' would pull up to their house, the women invisible in the clouds of smoke.

She also had a great faith and went to Mass every Sunday.

Tilly Hanna died on September 19 at her home aged 73.

She is survived by her children Tommy, Annemarie, John, Kevin, Linda, Jennifer, Michael, Louise and Grace, her 22 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren, her brothers Anthony, TJ, and John and sisters Lil Quinn, Kate Kearney & Caroline Magee.

Lives Remembered

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