For years, across south Dublin and Wicklow, art lovers got to display in their homes the works of emerging Irish artists that they borrowed as part of an innovative loan scheme, courtesy of Flora Brennock.
As a member of Tuairim, an organisation for graduates that ran from 1954 until the 1970s and promoted "intellectual debate and policy formation", Flora pioneered the scheme, says her brother Domhnall Mac Domhnaill.
He recalls one exhibition in the former La Touche Hotel in Greystones, where Flora displayed a range of landscapes, modern art and sculptures. Members selected their favourites, names were drawn from a hat and people would get to "bring home a painting for three or six months for a little fee".
Flora, a member of Tuairim for a number of years after her graduation from UCD with a degree in commerce and economics, was from a high-achieving family.
The eldest of five children of Aeneas and Margaret MacDonnell, she was born in 1937 and spent her early years in Hollymount, Co Mayo with her sister Una, where her father was a primary school teacher.
Her sister Hilda and brothers Domhnall and Aonghus were born in Dublin when the family moved after her mother, a mathematician, was offered a position with Nobel-winning physicist Erwin Schrödinger at the Institute for Advanced Studies. Her father became principal at St John the Baptist primary school in Blackrock.
Her mother had been a teacher at Tourmakeady College until her marriage when by law she was barred from working in the public sector. She took an unfair dismissals case and had a victory of sorts with a ruling that she had not been given a minimum six months' notice.
“My mother was a very unassuming person and she passed that on to Flora who was very unassuming as well,” says Domhnall.
The family spoke Irish almost exclusively in Mayo and when they moved to Blackrock in Dublin in 1943, she and her sister Una were initially less fluent in English. They were then sent to Carysfort primary school and later to Sion Hill and the rest of the family was also educated through English.
After college Flora worked in a number of positions in Siemens, the administrative section of UCD when it was in Earlsfort Terrace and then at the Agricultural Institute.
Flora married Phil Brennock, an accountant, and the couple moved to Dundela Avenue, Sandycove. She worked as a bookkeeper for the Hall School in Monkstown and as an accountancy teacher with Dun Laoghaire VEC.
Flora and Phil's life together was cut short when he got cancer and died in 2000. Through it all Flora had the support of her family and Gráinne Farren and Dympna Gilligan, close friends since their Sion Hill school days.
She was also a very attentive listener, which fitted her role as the family communicator who stayed in touch with extended family and distant cousins
But Flora never complained and “she wouldn’t say anything negative against anyone”. A warm personality who radiated positivity and joie de vivre, she had a great welcome for everyone and was also renowned for her caring attitude to all her neighbours, her brother recalls.
And throughout her married life she was particularly attentive to her sister-in-law Doreen who had been in long-term care since early childhood until her death in her 70s.
“Flora did not have a cynical bone in her body and retained her childhood innocence ‘til the day she died,” according to her younger brother Aonghus, who was also her Godchild. She was amazingly generous and the family discovered she had standing order subscriptions to a huge number of charities.
She was also a very attentive listener, which fitted her role as the family communicator who stayed in touch with extended family and distant cousins.
Flora was still driving at 82 and had gone to Dún Laoghaire but fell when she got out of the car. She was brought to St Vincent’s hospital with a suspected fracture and then to a nursing home for two weeks of convalescence. But the first lockdown was introduced in mid-March while she was there.
“She couldn’t come out and we couldn’t go to see her,” says her brother. Flora became ill with Covid-19 in mid-April and was transferred to Tallaght hospital where she died on May 3rd.
Flora had great faith and loved her local parish church St. Joseph’s in Glasthule, where her funeral Mass took place. She is survived by her sister Una, brothers Domhnall and Aonghus, nieces and nephews.