|Mum and brother Billy in Carrick|
When quite young Mum's parents separated, and she was then raised by her mother alongside her siblings Edna, Billy, Michael, Nicole and Mark. She attended Sunnylands Primary School until 1961, and then Carrickfergus Intermediate Secondary Modern School, where she stayed until 1966. She was always proud that in her last year at school she came first in her class with English, Maths, French, History, Geography, Science, Domestic Science and Religious Education, and throughout her school years she loved playing netball for the school team. As a teenager Mum was a member of the Girls Brigade at Joymount Presbyterian Church, which she attended every Tuesday night for five years, until she turned 14, whereupon she left and joined the Girl Guides.
|In Salia Avenue, Carrickfergus|
|Wedding day, 1969|
Just three weeks after the wedding Mum had to relocate to Barrow-in-Furness in England, where my father was posted, setting up home at 5 Torridge Drive, a three bedroomed house in the town's naval accommodation area. She took up work at a sewing factory in Barrow, and then at a men's drapery shop, but soon found herself pregnant with me. She returned to Carrickfergus to be looked after by her family, and I was duly born in late 1970.
|Mum, myself & brother Colin in Helensburgh|
As a family we relocated to Plymouth, another naval posting, where my youngest brother Robert was duly born. Not long after, however, her relationship with my father began to deteriorate, and by 1978 the two decided to separate. My youngest brother and sister went with her back to Carrickfergus, whilst my father retained custody of myself and Colin. Not long after we also returned to Carrick.
Mum lived initially in North Street, in a flat over a butcher's shop, and then in a house at Rosebrook Avenue, and gained work in a chip shop in the town. The split with my father had been quite a messy affair, and a consequence of that was that we were initially not allowed to visit her, despite Mum living about a mile or so from us. But nothing was going to stop me from meeting my mother! On a couple of occasions I met up with her and my two youngest siblings in secret for picnics - on one of these occasions, thanks to a late newspaper delivery for my paper round, I was late for our meeting at Legg Park, and by the time I got there she had gone. I ran all the way up to her street and caught up with her just before she reached her house - we ended up having the picnic in her living room.
Mum continued to work hard in her chip shop in Sunnylands, and fortunately by the time I had become a teenager any such prohibition on visiting her was set aside. Each weekend when I finished my paper round job, I would pop in and get one of her legendary pastie bap suppers, and would regularly visit her at home. It's fair to say my parents still had their issues between them, but a consequence of that was that for many years, to keep both of them happy, I would eat two Christmas dinners on Christmas Day, and two Christmas puddings. Life was tough!
|Mum's and Jim's wedding in 2002|
Mum became a granny for the first time in 2000 with the arrival of my first son Calum, and again four years later with the arrival of Jamie. It's safe to say she spoiled them rotten! In 2006 she and Jim moved north to Manchester, where they continued to foster children for Swiis. A wall in her house here recorded every child she and Jim raised through a series of portrait photos - in every one of them there is a smile.
|At Colin's wedding - clan matriarch!|
A couple of weeks later I went with Mum to Christie's hospital in Manchester where we learned the disastrous news that her cancer was by now terminal. Even then she was determined to fight it, and we planned to have a massive family get together at Christmas, which she was looking forward to immensely. Sadly her health declined very quickly, before she passed away on November 28th.
Mum had a sense of humour without parallel, which she passed onto us. When she had a minor heart attack in 2002 I visited the hospital ward where she was based with a balloon saying "It's a boy" on the side. Half the hospital wished her well on her heart issues, the other half congratulated her on her new arrival - she laughed all the way back to the house at that one! She was also occasionally gullible, and we always played on that when we could - on her first Oz trip, she had to change flights in the Middle East, and I convinced her that in transit at the airport she would have to wear a veil, as that was the culture. The sight of her practising with a tea towel on her head in her kitchen at Carrick will stay with me forever! You always knew when you had got her - she would suddenly tut and say "Och, son!", before laughing at being caught out again.
Mum was there for me when I came into the world, and it was an honour for me to be with her in her final moments. I love you loads Mum - Claire, the boys and I will all miss you dearly. xxx
|Mum's 63rd birthday in June|