The late Bridie Doherty (Fintan) of Doherty’s newsagents in Carn is pictured behind the counter of her corner shop on the Diamond, with her hands on the headlines of the day, a woman at the very heart of her community.
Bridie was laid to rest on Monday with the church of the Sacred Heart packed to capacity as mourners, many of them Bridie’s customers, turned out in their hundreds to pay respects to the local business woman who was regarded as a gentle and caring person by all those who knew her.
As news filtered through Inishowen last weekend of Bridie’s passing, hundreds spoke about the lady from the corner shop and many hundreds more visited her wake and attended her funeral.
On social media, hundreds paid tribute too, everyone describing Bridie as “a lady.”
But the lady who sold the sweets and newspapers was much more than just that.
A mother of five, grandmother of 14 and great grandmother of seven, Bridie had worked hard for her family her entire life, following the death of her late husband Neil in 1972.
Delivering a heartfelt euology, Bridie’s son, Cathal who is a Jesuit priest, said: “She gave herself completely to us, her children; all her hard work over the years, raising the five of us after my father’s death at an early age, it was all for us, and not for herself at all. It’s something that you can’t really appreciate when you’re young, only years later. She said herself to me recently from her sickbed: “That’s why I did it. That’s why I worked so hard. I did it all for yous.”
Bridie’s five children Ann, Marion, Dessie, Cathal and Gary have been inundated with messages of sympathy and support since their mother passed away on February 12.
While she was an integral part of the community in Carn, Bridie Doherty (nee Magee) was originally from Culmore in Derry. She went to school in Rosemount and Hollybush and then Thornhill, and then went to London to work in the civil service, where she spent three years working in the Labour Exchange on Medway Street in Westminster, before moving to Carn.
Speaking at his mother’s funeral, Fr, Cathal Doherty recalled: “A few years ago, she went back to London with her daughter Marion and her youngest son Gary for a visit, after being away for 63 years. Even after such a long time, she was able to direct the taxi driver and tell him how to get to her old place of work, and despite failing health walked all the way through Green Park to Buckingham Palace, retracing the routes she took on foot as a young woman of the age of 19 or 20. The labour exchange where she worked is still there. She told us that she would often get requests there for workers with the condition “No coloured, no Irish”. When she got one of those, she would send the person she thought would be *least* qualified for the job.”
In January 1951. Bridie married Neilly Doherty at Iskaheen Chapel.
She spent the remaining 65 years of her life in Carn where she raised her family and became an integral part of life in the busy town. Many of the adults who now frequent the shop to buy newspapers were children who once queued up at the same counter to buy sweets. For all of those adults Bridie will remain engrained in the memory of their childhoods.
Referring to her role as a shopkeeper and her generous attitude to others, Fr, Cathal Doherty said:
“She was a great friend to many people, and to many kinds of people. In our house, you never knew who you would find in the kitchen having a cup of tea with her, or who you find her talking to as she sat in the sun on the windowsill facing the Diamond. Customers from the Persian, neighbours and friends, strangers . She made no distinctions and treated everyone with the same kindness and respect. She had a healthy disregard for social divisions. It didn’t matter how much money they made, or where lived or what they did. To her, people were people. And I would add - made in God’s image and likeness. She worked with the St Vincent De Paul later in her life, when she retired from the shop and talked to me once of how some people just get too many knocks and then can’t get up again without help and how it’s not their fault.”
Those gathered at her funeral also heard of the challenges Bridie herself faced following the loss of her husband Neilly.
“Her great trial was being widowed in her early 40’s when my father Neilly passed away on her birthday, 23 June 1972, quite suddenly after a short illness, after 21 years of marriage. Leaving five children and a small business to manage. Daddy got sick on Wednesday, died on Friday, was buried on a Sunday and after the funeral she had to cook the meat to open the restaurant on Monday for the mart day. It’s hard to imagine what an ordeal that was for a young woman - to have your world shattered, and then have to start picking up the pieces, to look after her children, fulfilling her first duty as a mother.”
In recent years, Bridie faced her own personal health challenges. In 2003 she was diagnosed with heart failure. While the diagnosis was far from positive, the Carn mother and grandmother was determined to keep living her life, surrounded by her family and the many friends she had in her local community.
When her health failed again, in recent weeks, she met that challenge too with the same sense of dignity and strength which defined her.
She was cared for her, during her final days, by staff at Letterkenny University Hospital.
In the days following her death, hundreds of people from around Inishowen attended the family business, as well as Bridie’s wake and funeral.
Her son, Gary, said the family had taken great comfort from the many messages of support they had received.
“It’s been really helpful to us all to know that others were thinking about her and to hear everyone share their wonderful memories.”
Fr. Cathal Doherty, in his homily, thanked his mother for the unselfish manner in which she lived her life, caring for her children and extended family and always putting their needs before her own, right up to her final hour.
He also paid tribute to his sister, Marion, who had been her mother’s carer.
“Taking the example of my mother, I would like to express some gratitude. I thank my sister Marion on behalf of the rest of the family for her excellent care of my mother all through her life and especially in her last illness. Also Dr. Gavin who gave so much of her time to caring for her.
“But most of all, we thank Bridie, my mother, for all she has done for us, for fighting the good fight to the end, and we thank the Lord for the wonderful gift of her life,” he concluded.