Lives Lost to Covid-19: The marriage bar ended Bridie McCabe’s career. She started another

Bridie and Paud opened a grocery shop in Santry, then a sleepy rural outpost of Dublin

Bridie McCabe


Ireland was a very different place back in 1921, Bridie McCabe was fond of telling her children in relation to the year of her birth.

But it was also a different country in 1951, when she had to give up her job as a legal secretary upon getting married.

Growing up in the newly independent Ireland, she won many medals for her Irish dancing. She attended Rathmines tech as a teenager and served as secretary to the students' union.

“Her time as a secretary of the union taught her to always stand up for her rights and so she was never afraid in those days to ask for a raise, if she felt she deserved it,” her son Ray recalls.


She was a career woman, he says, who was headhunted several times after starting work with a legal firm on Dublin’s quays.

While the marriage ban put paid to one career, another started when in 1950 she and her new husband, Paud, opened a grocery shop in Santry, then a sleepy rural outpost of Dublin. For 38 years, as the suburb grew and grew, they served the community and a loyal customer base.

Bridie had seven children, who became her life. “She was always very fussy about us, especially when it came to food. There was no processed food in our house or any ‘mixy up’ meals,” Ray says.

As children were followed by grandchildren, many happy holidays were spent in Wexford. “The kids would fill the house, often bringing friends, sleeping from the rafters and every morning Mam would be up first to cook the fry. We have great memories of her standing over the cooker, cooking a pile of rashers, sausages and eggs and as each person got up, they helped themselves.”

Ray says his mother had a great work ethic, which she passed on to her children and grandchildren. “She was very interested in what each person worked at, how they were getting on and that they worked in Ireland. So even though there was a lot of working abroad she was very happy that everyone was back home now and working here.”

Her positivity helped her get through her later years and their burden of operations. In her 90s, she went to live in Beechlawn nursing home, where she lived happily until contracting Covid-19. She died last May, aged 98.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is a former heath editor of The Irish Times.