There has been widespread sorrow across the North West at the news of the recent death of Jean McCourt of Ardmore. Jean passed away on Thursday 26 January 2012 at the age of eighty-six.
Jean was well-known throughout the community. She was a highly respected teacher, a tireless worker for her local church and an avid supporter of organizations such as the WI and Save the Children. Jean’s wisdom, enthusiasm and kind nature made her a welcome figure among all religious traditions.
From the outset Jean committed herself to playing a central role in her family and also in the wider community. Ardmore is an ancient and historic. place and when the McCourts came to settle here in the early 1800s they fervently committed themselves to the locality. This was always a matter of great pride for Jean who in turn dedicated herself to the maintenance of family traditions.
When Jean was born in 1925 William McCourt’s family business comprised a public house and a grocery and post office. Jean, though academically gifted, took an interest in all aspects of the enterprise and brought a lasting influence to it. None the less vocation was beckoning and Jean set of for Belfast and teacher training in her late teens. The reward was a teaching post in the prestigious Waterside Boys Primary School in 1947. It was the beginning of a phenomenal career that would see more than forty years dedicated to the education of children. This included responsibility for developing the nursery programme for infants at Dungiven Road Primary School in the late 1970s
While Jean never married her family became the Ardmore community, the school children and their parents and of course her beloved McCourt in-laws. Jean always had a listening ear and never failed to give sound counsel and guidance. It was this ease of approach and interest in all the happenings of the Ardmore district that brought folk throughout the area to refer to her affectionately as ‘Auntie Jean’.
Religion had a very important place in Jean’s life and she took special pride in the upkeep of her local church – St Mary’s Chapel, Ardmore. Flowers, linens, and the various aspects necessary to the running of the church, including the cemeteries, all came under Jean’s watchful eye in her days at Ardmore. Another feature of Jean’s dedication to religion was her love of visiting sacred shrines across Europe. She knew all the holy places where saints were venerated and took great interest in studying their lives. Jean had many memorable experiences on these trips and on one occasion in Italy was absolutely delighted to have an audience with Padre Pio now St. Pio.
Those who knew Jean never failed to be amazed by her curiosity and her hunger for knowledge. Dictionaries, encyclopedias and books were her stock in trade. She did the most challenging crosswords daily and for years was a keen competitor in the local quiz scene. In this questing for knowledge it is not surprising to find that Jean took a great interest in the history of Ardmore and its peoples. She would go back over generations recording families and significant events and in her days knew virtually every family’s kith and kin. It was a great attribute but Jean carried it with utmost dignity and decorum. Indeed listening to her chatting about past times was absolutely fascinatung.
Ever helpful and always considerate Jean McCourt was one of what might be called the last of the old order. Those enlightened people who can straddle the old world and the new and make sense of every day life in these challenging times. The reservoir of Jean’s knowledge of Ardmore is unmatched and her love of her family, her friends and the wider community will leave many fond and enduring memories.
‘Precious to God is the unfading beauty of a gentle and a quiet spirit…’ Peter 3:3-4
Deepest sympathy is extended to all Jean’s loved ones at Ardmore and in the wider community.