Deirdre Frame: Remarkable life of teacher steeped in music and Christian fellowship
DEIRDRE Frame always loved to sing.
As a teenager she was an enthusiastic member of the choirs of Sacred Heart Grammar School and Newry Cathedral.
As a teacher at St Malachy’s PS, Camlough, she gave generations of children the experience of singing a wide range of secular and sacred music, from plainsong in Latin to compositions in Irish.
Deirdre later joined the Armagh City Choir and Armagh Cathedral Choir and accepted responsibility for music at the church of St Peter & Paul in Bessbrook, developing a four-part choir with a challenging repertoire.
She wrote many of the parts out by hand, often working late into the night, and provided material for the choir from her own resources.
Many of the singers recall how they were left home safely after each practice, or the annual choir party in Deirdre's garden when she provided food for everyone and her husband Freddie organised football, board games and even cricket.
Born Deirdre Fearon on Chapel Road, Bessbrook in 1935, Deirdre's father, Patrick (Pappy), was headmaster of St Malachy’s Boys PS as well as a member of Armagh's 1926 Junior All-Ireland winning football team.
Her first language was Irish, which Patrick and his wife Mary Catherine (Daisy) both spoke fluently, and she spent some months of her primary education in Dún Lúiche in the Donegal Gaeltacht.
Her musical education began with piano lessons at Convent of Mercy PS, Bessbrook and continued through Josef Delafaille and August Toremans, successive Belgian organists in Newry Cathedral.
Deirdre advanced to St Mary’s teacher training college where among her circle of friends was her future husband, Frederick Frame, who would work alongside her as principal teacher in St Malachy PS.
She was responsible there for liturgical music for sacramental preparation and the school choir was honoured to sing at St Malachy’s Church, Carrickcruppen, especially at the ordination of Fr Brian McCreesh and at the first Mass of past pupil Fr Peter John McParland.
Deirdre also established a branch of the internationally recognised Pueri Cantores in the school and brought groups to its conventions throughout Ireland.
She was a founder member of Cumann Ceol Eaglasta na hÉireann (Irish Church Music Association) when it was formed in 1969 and a regular attendee at its summer schools.
She also was for many years a member of the Armagh Diocesan Liturgy and Church Music Commission.
On retirement from teaching, she continued her love of music, education and all things cultural.
Deirdre became a committee member and friend of the Charles Wood Festival of Music in Armagh and also attended the annual Lislea Drama Festival, Newry Drama Festival and plays of An Cumann Scoildrámíochta.
She supported all sections of Newry Musical Feis, becoming an honorary vice-president, and enjoyed her annual visits to Castleward Opera and Wexford International Opera Festival.
It was very special for her to see her grandson, Malachy, sing roles in Risurrezione and Rigoletto in Wexford in 2017. Her big regret was that Freddie did not live to enjoy this experience.
She also loved to attend lectures as a member of Seanchas Ard Mhacha, Dromore Diocesan Historical Society and Old Newry Society.
Another area of expertise was liturgy. Each week for an academic year Deirdre travelled to Maynooth to attend the Diploma course in Pastoral Liturgy and Theology.
In her 85th year and in the company of the Armagh Cathedral Choir, whose friendship and liturgical music meant so much, her contribution was recognised by Archbishop Eamon Martin who presented her with the St Patrick’s Medal, an Armagh diocesan award.
Sadly Covid-19 prevented the presentation of the Bene Merenti medal awarded by Pope Francis last year.
Deirdre Frame enjoyed a remarkable life lived with generosity towards others as a good neighbour, teacher and Christian.
Her knowledge and experience of choral music, liturgical, sacred and secular, was nothing short of amazing.
She died on Palm Sunday, March 28 - a fitting day for one so steeped in the Liturgy of the Church.
Idir Dhia agus a dheas-lámh go raibh sí.