An appreciation - Margaret McAnee, a special lady

The late Margaret McAnee
The late Margaret McAnee

The untimely death of Margaret McAnee after a short illness came as a shock to her family, relations and many friends throughout the community. Over recent years Margaret was a familiar personality around the city. Always immaculately dressed her lovely winning smile and generous caring nature endeared her to all she met.

The massive turnout for her funeral in St Mary’s Church was testament to the esteem her and her family are held throughout the city and beyond.

Margaret’s life journey began in 1940 in Clar, Redcastle, Co. Donegal when she was born the last of seven children to Maggie and Tommy Cassidy in a white washed cottage on the lough side of the road known locally as the “Bankhead” with the head of the lane christened Cassidys’ gate on the Lough Swilly bus route.

In 1947 the family moved to Derry and lived for a while at East Wall with her cousins the McElhinneys. During this time she attended Artillery Street School where her excellent singing voice was soon noticed. After leaving school she continued with her singing /Irish dancing lessons and continued to participate in these competitions at the Feis.

She was also active in dramatic circles.

Her portrayal of Tuptim the slave girl, in the “King and I” was highly acclaimed and the production recognised as one of the best amateur musical ever seen in Derry.

It was here she met Seamus “my Seamus” as she always called him, her husband of almost 55 years who was playing the trumpet in the orchestra.

Music played a major part in their married life, indeed the house was always full of the sound of singing. Margaret sang her way around the home doing housework but mainly sang to all her children and grandchildren who loved hearing a bedtime lullaby long after they were babies!

The most of her working life was spent as a play group leader in various locations in the city but mostly in the “Matchbox” in Kildrum Gardens, Foyle Hill. She was well known and recognised by generations of the young and not so young in the Foyle Hill area. Many of her ‘wains’ stopped her in town and talked with great fondness of the loving care she showered on them whilst at the playgroup.

Following a breast cancer scare in 2010 Margaret joined the Pink Ladies support group and immersed herself in all their activities, fund raising, the choir, petitioning for a Radiotherapy Unit in Altnagelvin etc.

She found the camaraderie and support of tremendous benefit in dealing with her illness. She met many people in Glenview House at City Hospital, Belfast with whom she remained friends till the end.

After her treatment, Margaret through her strong faith and resilient nature lived life fully, resuming her love of dancing at the AOH, Saturday afternoons in the City Hotel, singing in pink ladies choir, having her nails and hair done, loving her family and friends.

She was never seen without her lipstick and even during her time in hospital, always had a wee pink lipstick to hand. She loved ‘going down the town’ and many a café and taxi will miss her presence.

As one friend who left Derry for a long period recalled “if you were a friend of Margaret’s , you remained her friend.” She was a loyal and undemanding friend, someone who never forgot birthdays, children’s birthdays, someone who always sent a card to let you know she was praying or thinking of you.

Margaret’s death has left a void in many lives, not least that of her husband and children. However as one of her cousins’ wrote in her sympathy card ”the song maybe ended but the melody lingers on”

A memorial service will be held for Margaret in New Jersey USA in July while the City of Derry Swim Team is there.

May she rest in peace.