‘FIRM but fair’ and always with a smile, is how Mary T Wycherley (nee Whelton) was best known.
As a mother, a school principal and a strong community person these simple attributes carried her successfully through life. She always had a positive word and straight-talking advice for anyone who requested it.
Her husband, Geoffrey, was the luckiest man alive the day he met Mary T. She was the beautiful girl from Lislevane who moved west to the beautiful surrounding of Rosscarbery 48 years ago. She always said she was born in Barryroe but her heart was in Rosscarbery.
The love they shared for each other was very easy to see, but alas it has been cut short by her death. Geoffrey can always take the consolation that he got the ‘belle of the ball’ for nearly 50 years.
To say that she touched a lot of people in different ways is an understatement. Geoff said, ‘We as a family always knew how much she meant to her work colleagues, past students and friends, but it has really been reaffirmed by what we have read and heard about her over the past weeks. The messages we have received from all parts of the world and from all walks of life have left a very comforting effect on us. She just had that very rare ability to connect with people and make them feel like the most important person in the world.’
Clonakilty Sacred Heart Secondary School was like her second home for 40 years. She had great affection for how the school was run and respected in the West Cork community. The school musicals, sports teams, academic results, pupil welfare, parent interaction and fellow teachers is how she defined her professional approach.
She took a holistic approach to her professional life and current principal Annmarie Brosnan put it best when she said, ‘Mary’s DNA is embedded forever more within the school she loved so much.’
Mary’s daughter Aoife said, ‘Reading over all the messages of condolences we have received over the past weeks it is comforting to see how this personal interest touched people strongly.’
After retiring in 2007, Mary had all the time in the world to plan the things her and Geoffrey always wanted to do. Travelling was top of the list for sure. The big trip was meticulously planned to include New Zealand, Australia and with Hong Kong thrown for good measure. They have been on safaris, driven across America and travelled most European cities.
They would always hire a car and Mary would be the trusted navigator on their many road trips but, it was Mary who was navigating them together through their lives. For Mary, travel provided the fantastic opportunity to experience and visit some of the places she would have only seen in books while teaching geography.
In the past years, as grandchildren came along, things got even busier in Ardagh House. From playing pitch and putt with Sean during the summer months to the homework club at the kitchen table where maths was drummed into Aifric, Oisin and Heather by counting teaspoons, the reward at the end being the anticipated Wispa bar.
Senan and Freya are the next up and coming students and there’s no doubt the other four will pass on all the knowledge their grandmother gave them. She was immensely proud of them all.
Mary’s home, Ardagh House over the years has become something of a quasi-parochial house where the door was always open and the kettle was always on for whoever wandered in. Mary carried on the family tradition of looking after the clergy of the day and even right up to her death she was very fortunate to have, as a regular visitor, Rosscarbery parish priest Fr John McCarthy as a friend as much as a priest.
Mary was immensely house- and garden-proud. Whether it was making her famous wellington squares, toasted sandwiches or West Cork ham, everyone always knew that a cup of tea and a chat were part of the visit.
Her three children, Geoff, Cara and Aoife, have been very fortunate to be allowed all this time to learn from such a fantastic mother and best friend. She was all a mother should be, a good listener, good educationalist, good discipline, good cook, great craic, witty and best of all showing them how to treat other people in their company.
Geoffrey said ‘we would like to acknowledge and thank everyone who sent us messages, cards, letters and condolences. Mary will be deeply missed from our lives but her memory lives on.’