Lives Remembered

Carmel Quinn: Newry woman loved life and wore heart on her sleeve

CARMEL Quinn loved life. No matter what obstacle came her way she overcame it.

She was a character with a wicked sense of humour and always a wee glint in her eye.

Carmel was born in the High Street area of Newry where her family, the Hannas, had lived since the 1890s.

She was one of 10 children and had a carefree childhood. There wasn’t much in the way of material things but her’s was a family grounded in love.

Carmel didn’t care much for learning but she loved St Clare’s Primary School where she made lifelong friendships.

Her playground was the Rocks and the Rope Walk. Then, like now, High Street was a close-knit community.

Carmel had a devotion to Our Lady, Padre Pio and St Martin. She loved each May and the procession up the Nun’s Hill. She sat, as her mother did before, in the same seat in the Cathedral.

Like many of her generation she left school at a relatively early age out of economic necessity.

Her first job was at Carroll’s cigarette factory in Newry. Later she worked at Drumalane Mill.

When it closed she left for Aylesbury in England but didn’t like it much and moved to Birmingham, taking work in the local Cadbury’s factory.

Whilst there she met John Joe Quinn from Bessbrook and they were married.

Moving back home they started a family. First in a small one-room flat before becoming one of the first residents of Derrybeg.

When the Troubles came Carmel moved back to High Street. Soon the family expanded to five children, Martin, Donna, Paul, Louis and Katrine.

She and John Joe had a long and happy marriage until illness took him from her.

As if rearing five children was not enough, and against a backdrop of civil unrest, Carmel threw herself into community activism.

She campaigned for a local community centre. She helped found the ThreeWays centre and steered it to the success it is today.

As an older resident she loved the luncheon club and the events for senior citizens.

With her children grown up, Carmel worked as a home help and was a hearty tonic to those she visited.

Carmel always said things as they were. A woman who wore her heart on her sleeve.

She loved to reminisce and remembered the little things - like going “first footing’ at New Year, bringing coal, sugar and a wee whiskey to her late mother’s great friend, Madge Keenan. Carmel valued tradition.

She loved her children, grandchildren and indeed great grandchildren. She was proud of all their achievements.

And when it came to prayer, Carmel was an Olympian. She carried everyone’s worries and troubles in her heart and her prayer book with its well-worn pages bore testimony to her belief that God would see people through.

She bore her illnesses with great stoicism and fought back from a stroke.

Carmel was just simply Carmel - a tour de force.

She died on April 19 and is survived by her five children, brother Oliver, sister Dorothy and family circle.

Tom Kelly

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