Remembering Mary: ‘The Irish in London always have a home here’
The London Irish Centre supporting people suffering loneliness, isolation or poverty
Mary Talbot celebrated her 100th birthday surrounded by friends and family at the London Irish Centre’s luncheon club last year.
More than 30 years ago Irish woman Mary Talbot joined the London Irish Centre after her husband died. The second World War nurse and mother of six children went on to become one of the club’s longest members celebrating her 100th birthday at the centre last year.
“It opened so many avenues for my mum,” recalled Talbot’s daughter Nina, who says the centre was like a “home away from home” for her mother. “In all honesty, it was a lifesaver for our mum after our late father passed away. It was, without exaggerating the truth, her life”.
“She was a very strong-willed woman, very determined, independent and never let anything beat her.”
Talbot, who was originally from Aughrum in Co Galway, died aged 101 on October 27th this year.
Talbot came to London from Galway in 1936 with her cousin. They arrived in the coastal town of Margate at aged 18 in search of work. While working in the Royal Sea Bathing Hospital, Talbot helped many soldiers coming back from Dunkirk, North France during the second World War.
Following the war, Talbot married Dublin native Chrissti, who she met at an Irish dancehall 10 years after arriving from Ireland. They went on to have three daughters and three sons, and raised them in their home in Camden.
Talbot first came to the centre more than 60 years with her husband and was a regular visitor to our lunch club in her later years where she made life-long friends.
“Mary was a lovely lady with a lovely smile whose hair was always immaculate. I used to call her ‘Queenie’,” Maria Connelly, wellbeing officer at the centre, says.
“She would ask about family and never forgot any of their names. She was a very natural, caring person. She was coming to the lunch club for many years - I’ve been working here 16 years but she was coming long before I started. She’ll always be remembered fondly here.”
Talbot was well known in the Camden community for her work as a dinner lady and then a teaching assistant at Our Lady’s Catholic Primary School. In her retirement, she spent much of her time in the centre with the lunch club. Nina said her mother enjoyed her time so much at the centre that even in her later life she still wanted to attend the club as much as she could as she so enjoyed the “company, the laughter and the shows”.
As long as the London Irish Centre remains open, the Irish in London will never be forgotten and will always have a place they can call home. Christmas is a time that can be lonely and isolating for some, and the centre is here for support.
The centre has provided Irish culture and community to the people of London since 1955. It opens its doors to tens of thousands every year - those who attend for advice on benefits, housing and passports to those who visit the centre to go a comedy gig or concert - the centre offers an Irish welcome to those from every background.
The lunch club runs every Monday, Wednesday and Friday and is a great chance for the older community to catch up over lunch, games and activities. There are multiple arts and crafts classes, which Mary attended over the years making silk cushions and paintings that adorn the homes of family and friends now.
Talbot celebrated her 100th birthday at the centre with her many family members and friends turning out in large numbers. A plaque is due to be put up in the centre in the coming weeks to pay tribute to Talbot and the time she spent in the Kennedy and McNamara Halls over the years.
For more information on the London Irish Centre, or to donate to their Christmas Appeal, see www.londonirishcentre.org.
Laura Sheehan, originally from Cork, moved to the UK in October 2018 and is the marketing and communications officer at the London Irish Centre.