Lives Remembered

Mary Taylor: Businesswoman and wife of Lord Kilclooney was 'lady by name, fiercely family by nature'

Mary Taylor was a leading figure in the local newspaper industry in Northern Ireland.

She was a director and driving force for many years in the Alpha Newspaper Group, chaired by her husband Lord Kilclooney and which owns a range of weekly titles.

She is remembered for her straight-talking, hard-working nature but also the “boundless support” and good counsel she provided to family and friends.

Born Mary Todd in 1950 in Benburb, she was educated in Armagh Girls’ High School and boarded at Dundalk Grammar.

On leaving, she began working in TSB, until she was obliged to resign on getting married.

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Mary had met Stormont MP John Taylor at a Young Unionists function, having cannily switched name plates on the table settings so that he would find himself sitting next to her.

She was 20 when they married in 1970 and they would be blessed with six children, Jane, Jonathan, Rachel, Rowena, Alexandra and Hannah.

Just over a year after the marriage, with Mary heavily pregnant, her husband was shot by Official IRA gunmen who ambushed him with a sub-machine gun in Armagh in February 1972.

The attack on the junior Home Office minister came just weeks after Bloody Sunday and he survived despite being struck in the head.

He went on to be an MP and MLA for Strangford, an MEP and deputy leader of the UUP, before being made a crossbench peer in the House of Lords in 2001, taking the name Lord Kilclooney.

Having bought the Tyrone Courier in the late 1970s, the Alpha Newspaper Group acquired a range of weekly titles across Northern Ireland and Mary worked for many years in its headquarters in Moygashel, Co Tyrone.

She helped manage the business in a wide range of capacities until her retirement.

She also maintained a lifelong love of horses, riding competitively and acting as a judge at the County Armagh Show. The Riding for the Disabled charity was particularly close to her heart, and she was involved in the Scouts movement.

At a Service of Thanksgiving in the Mall Presbyterian Church in Armagh last week, her youngest daughter Hanna described her as a “true gaffer”.

“A proud farmer’s daughter, and growing up in Glenaul Park Farm, Benburb meant that from an early age she was not afraid of hard work nor afraid to get her hands dirty,” she said.

“This attitude to hard work resonated throughout her life – whether running an extremely busy household or a provincial media company.

“Mum would approach challenges head on. She was direct both in how she communicated and in how she conducted herself.

“Not afraid to advocate for those around her or for what she believed to be right.”

She also described her mother as a natural confidante, who would drop everything to respond to someone in need.

“Mum supported me endlessly and gave me the opportunity and the confidence not only to compete but also to fail. Teaching me both literally and metaphorically to get back on the saddle and after a fall.

“We will all dearly miss her, someone to everyone. Lady by name but fiercely family by nature.”

Mary Taylor died aged 73 on September 11.


Lives Remembered