Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Betty Cuddihy: 21st August 1956 – 28th January 2020

“KEEP them all in the church for as long as possible when I die,” Betty Cuddihy instructed Father Michael Toomey in the time before her funeral. The church all laughed when he recounted this instruction, yet the reality is that keeping everyone in the church meant that everyone was together. For Betty Cuddihy, being together was of utmost importance – if her death was a time of immense sorrow, it was also a time of celebration, knowing that her life was marked in a way of her choosing.

Although Betty passed away following a brave battle with illness, the branches of her life are interwoven throughout her beloved Tramore and Portlaw. Being the granddaughter of the legendary Jack Hunt in Tramore meant that Betty grew up listening to stories of Irish independence and oral histories. These oral histories gave her a thirst for local history and for following the branches of her family tree.

Tracing those branches took Betty all over the county – from churches, to graveyards, to libraries, going for lunch with her husband Ray and daughter Becky – by way of a graveyard so that another branch of the family tree could be investigated. Finding a new link in the family tree meant Betty could develop her sense of identity and increase the already strong links in her family tree.

She had a smile for everyone and her warm friendly manner meant that working in hospitality earned her the nickname ‘Benevolent Betty’. It was during one of her many hospital visits that Betty noticed a woman who was on her own. “Go over there and see if that lady needs anything,” Betty said to her daughter Becky. Betty was a patient, just like all the others in the ward, yet she projected such kindness onto others.

A friendship existed between Betty and her best friend Antoinette, the ‘two Julie’s’ as they were known, and that friendship traversed the years from childhood until Betty’s final days. It was the kind of rare friendship where judgement had no place, and unconditional support and a genuine appreciation for life was shared. Both were known to frequent what was then Katie Reilly’s pub where they would dance the night away, before catching the last bus home.

Thirty years ago, Betty became a mother to Rebecca and in Becky’s own words, “some people dread going home to visit or getting long calls from their parents. I could never wait to get home from work or college so I could tell Mam all my news.” The two visited tearooms together, got lost together, got into mischief together, and they both forged a pathway together ahead in life.

Betty’s sincere love for local and Irish history was known across the county and her investigation into local lives was well respected. She sought out the voices which were lost in history and she revived them, allowing them to call down through the generations. At the 90th anniversary of the Pickardstown Ambush she was honoured to read the Irish Proclamation. If you ever had the pleasure of a conversation with Betty, she would recount tales of how her grandfather trained soldiers in the sand hills and how his time as a soldier in the old IRA allowed him to assist in organising the Pickardstown Ambush.

It was commented after Betty’s death that “Our wise old oak is gone” and while there were many things Betty loved: gardening, reading, conversation and family-above all, Betty loved life. Her life was cut short but as she herself said, ‘Haven’t I had the gift of a longer life than others have had?’

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