Marie Keown obituary: Lifelong love of singing, art and Fermanagh

Lives lost to Covid-19: She met Eamonn in Brixton and so began a 50-year love affair

Marie Keown and her husband, Eamonn

Marie Keown and her husband, Eamonn

 

This article is one of a series about people who have died with coronavirus in Ireland and among the diaspora. Read more at irishtimes.com/covid-19-lives-lost. If you would like a friend or family member included in the series, please email: liveslost@irishtimes.com.

Marie Keown
1935
-2020

Marie Keown (nee Kelly) was born in Arklow, Co Wicklow on August 1st, 1935, the eldest of three daughters. Her father, John Kelly, was a sailor in the merchant navy and would bring the girls – Marie, Nelly and Nancy – gifts from around the world on his return to port. Her parents Kathleen and John brought the family up at Connelly Street in the town centre.

Keown was educated at St Mary’s College Arklow, run by the Sisters of Mercy, and it was there that she developed a love of singing and art. She took part in local song contests as a young girl and on leaving school became a decorative artist at Arklow Pottery.

She served Prince Charles in the famous round reading room at the library. He used a pseudonym, ‘Mr Woods’

Marie and her closest friend, Betty Cranny, left Arklow in the late 1950s for the bright lights and excitement of London. She furthered her education through evening classes and worked her way up to become a librarian at the British Library in the mid-1960s. She used to tell a story of how she served a young Prince Charles in the famous round reading room at the library. He used a pseudonym, “Mr Woods”, she recalled.

She met Eamonn Keown in 1965 through a social event at Corpus Christi church in Brixton, which then had a large Irish community. So began a 50-year love affair. They dated for three years before marrying on October 12th, 1968 at the church in Arklow.

The couple had three children, Gerard, Paul and Edwina.

Bedroom walls were painted with murals, and Keown’s oil and watercolour paintings adorned the walls.

Summers were spent in Co Wicklow and Co Fermanagh and, in 2008, the couple celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary with a family trip to Rome and renewed their vows at a ceremony in the Irish College.

“By the time my parents celebrated their 50th anniversary together, dementia had entered our lives,” said Gerard.

She loved the company of others and she loved Fermanagh. It was a special place for her

Keown slowly succumbed to this silent disease as she approached her 80th year, and Eamonn decided it was time to return to Ireland. He had dreamt of returning to Co Fermanagh, but his wife’s illness made this impractical and they opted instead to move to Maynooth in Co Kildare.

Keown spent her final years in the care of the staff at Maynooth Community Care Unit. She passed away peacefully there on April 17th having contracted Covid-19.

Keown was buried at a family plot in Cashel near Garrison in Co Fermanagh.

“She loved the company of others and she loved Fermanagh. It was a special place for her so it was always important to her and my father that she was buried there,” said Gerard. She was 84.

Covid-19: Lives Lost

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