Tributes to ‘fearless, pioneering’ author and activist Margie Bernard

Margie pictured during the tribute to her at the Playhouse back in June.
Margie pictured during the tribute to her at the Playhouse back in June.

Well-known author and political activist Margie Bernard has died at the age of 87. She had been ill for several weeks – and an unconventional tribute to her life was held at Derry’s Playhouse in June. Margie was present to celebrate her own life, along with dozens of friends in an event hosted by Radio Foyle’s Mark Patterson.

Margie was author of ‘Daughter of Derry: The Story of Brigid Sheils Makowski’ - a Derry-born republican and political activist, who moved to the United States before returning to Ireland to die in County Donegal. It is understandable that the life of Brigid Sheils Makowski attracted Margie, as it contained a resonance with aspects of Margie’s own life.

Margie Bernard.

Margie Bernard.

Margie was herself born in the United States in 1932, moving to County Donegal in 2000. She was a political activist, having been vice-chair of Democrats Abroad Ireland and previously California Co-Coordinator for the Fred Harris for President Primary Campaign in 1976 and active in a variety of Democratic Party campaigns. She contributed to magazines in the United States and edited ‘The Chronology: The Documented Day-by-Day Account of the Secret Military Assistance to Iran and the Contras’ and the ‘Northern Ireland Human Rights Review’.

Once Margie moved to Donegal, she became very active in the writers’ and artists’ communities in Derry. She led the Derry Playhouse Writers support group for many years, helping many writers in Derry – especially women – to become acknowledged and published authors. Margie was an enthusiastic and committed supporter of the Playhouse theatre, being a member of its board for an astonishing 19 years.

Pauline Ross, founder and director of The Playhouse and a close friend, said: “Margie will be sorely missed by all whose life she touched. She was a fearless, pioneering women, who inspired me and hundreds of others. Two of her favourite quotes were ‘Don’t sweat the small stuff’ and ‘This Too Shall Pass’. Sadly now, so has she.”

Musician and songwriter Donal Fean said: “Throughout my 40-year friendship with Margie [I met] a generous open patient iron integrity that was focused on fairness for all... It was at the heart of her passion for art and literature, politics and social justice... she will be sadly missed and we are all the better for knowing her... RIP Brave and Noble Margie.”

The chair of the Playhouse board, Paul Gosling, said: “Margie was a passionate woman - she was passionate about writing and reading, about supporting her friends, about politics that gave hope and help to the oppressed and, happily for us, about the Playhouse. She was an active and passionate board member. She was steadfast in her support for the Playhouse. And she was active, giving advice and guidance to new writers, and as a challenging and forthright member of our board, even as she got older and more frail Margie continued to travel on the bus from Buncrana to Derry to help us, advise us and support us. Every single person at the Playhouse will miss her. She was a fabulous woman and it was our pleasure to have known her and benefit from her passion and good sense.”

Margie leaves behind many, many friends, as well as her family, including her great grandchildren in the United States.