Lives Remembered

Kathleen McGurk: Celebrating a life of family, faith and fun

FAMILY, faith and fun were central to the life of Kathleen McGurk.

Affectionately known as Kitty to her siblings, she was born in Florence Street in Derry's Waterside to Kathleen and Patrick McFeely in 1940.

The third oldest in the family, Kathleen was a sister to Margaret, John, Pat, Eileen and Gabrielle and attended the Waterside Girls School before starting work at Tilley's, one of the city's famous shirt factories.

She wed Andy McGurk in 1963 and the couple, who were married for 57 years, had four daughters - Theresa, Louise, Catherine and Andrea.

They met at the Palindrome ballroom in Strabane, with a star-struck Kathleen initially mistaking her future husband for a member of The Clipper Carlton showband.

Kathleen and Andy lived in Birmingham for a while, where she found employment in a factory making golf balls.

They later moved to Strabane, setting up home initially in Casement Place, before moving to Waterside Street and latterly Owenreagh Drive.

Kathleen would work in the Adria factory in the town and also with the nuns in the local convent.

But her family were the centre of her world and in later life she revelled in her role as grandmother to Laura, Jason, Jack, Meg, Ellie and Adam.

The kitchen was the centre of the house and Kathleen's cooking was legendary - friends, family and neighbours were always guaranteed a good feed, with home-made chips, vegetable soup and apple pie her specialities.

A devoted Catholic, Kathleen was a regular Mass-goer and was involved in the Women's Guild.

A lively person with a quick wit, she loved to walk and to socialise and holiday with friends.

She fulfilled her life's dream of visiting Australia when she marked her 60th birthday with a mammoth trip Down Under.

She was also particularly fond of Rossnowlagh and Portstewart and enjoyed many cruises over the years with her large circle of friends.

Kathleen may have settled in Strabane but she was always a Derry girl at heart.

Learning to drive and buying her own car gave her the independence and means to make the 14-mile trip almost weekly to visit her sisters and brother. It was a journey she kept making until illness took hold and her siblings then visited her.

She had a close bond with her sisters and they often met for pub lunches, though never a drop of alcohol was touched during these almost weekly early afternoon catch-ups.

And much to her sisters' amusement, Kathleen always insisted on ordering a child's portion of carbonara or salmon.

Kathleen was the life and soul of many occasions, particularly weddings, birthday parties and anniversaries.

One tradition she always made sure was upheld was the end of night gathering of Kathleen, Margaret, Eileen, Pat and Gabrielle on stage for a rendition of Sisters, made famous by The Beverly Sisters.

Kathleen died aged 80 in the Foyle Hospice on April 25.

Her funeral took place at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Strabane and was concelebrated by brothers Declan and Eugene Boland, who were close friends.

The funeral was packed as much as Covid restrictions allowed but neighbours and friends also lined the streets outside the chapel.

Afterwards, she made her final journal back to her beloved Derry, through her native Waterside, and was laid to rest near her parents in Ardmore Cemetery.

And as her family and many friends gathered for prayers, a relative performed an emotional and fitting final tribute, by singing I'll Take You Home Again, Kathleen.

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