Relentless in quest for university in Limerick


Dr Margaret Lyddy:DR MARGARET Lyddy, who has died aged 89, was a secondary school teacher and a former secretary of the Limerick University Project Committee. She also served as a member of the planning board which was established to develop a new type of third-level institution in Ireland, the National Institute for Higher Education (NIHE), Limerick.

That Limerick was chosen as the location for this new third-level institution was due to years of persistent and skilful lobbying by the university project committee. The appointment of the late Donagh O’Malley, a Limerick East TD, as minister for education was a major boost to the project.

The planning board devised a blueprint for a new type of third-level educational institution, geared to meet the needs of an Ireland rapidly changing from an agricultural economy to a post-industrial one.

Through her earlier work in publicising the case for a university in Limerick, Margaret Lyddy had established contact with a range of voluntary and professional bodies in the midwest, as well as trade unions, rallying regional support for the project.

The board commenced work in 1970, completing its task in 1975. Its members held regular meetings and they travelled abroad to look at newly established educational institutions in Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Scandinavia. They laid the foundations of the NIHE, which accepted its first students in 1972, and in 1989 celebrated its elevation to university status.

The founding president of the University of Limerick, Dr Edward Walsh, said: “When I came to Limerick in 1970 I had an opportunity to work closely with Margaret and gain some insight into her unrelenting determination and the effort she, with the support of her husband Frank, invested in the university campaign.” She was, he added, at “the epicentre of events” for many years.

Praising her “great vision, commitment and enthusiasm”, University of Limerick president Prof Don Barry said: “Margaret Lyddy was a remarkable woman to whom the University of Limerick owes a considerable debt. Her contribution to the establishment of this institution will continue to benefit generations to come.”

Born in Knocknagree, Co Cork, in 1920, she was one of three children of Michael O’Leary, a farmer, and his wife Mary Anne (née Crimmins). Educated locally and at St Angela’s College, Cork, she studied history and English at University College, Cork. She graduated with a BA in 1941, and secured the HDip Ed in 1942.

From 1942 to 1948 she taught at the Convent of the Sacred Heart of Mary, Ferrybank, Waterford. She became involved in the community self-help movement Muintir na Tíre, through which she met Frank Lyddy, the organisation’s national secretary. They were married in 1948.

A deeply spiritual woman, she was involved in active ministry in her parish, St Joseph’s. She was a member of the Thomond Archaeological Society. Her other interests included art and history, and she was an enthusiastic gardener.

In 1975 she was appointed to the Higher Education Authority. Conferred with an honorary doctorate by UL in 1995, in 2004 the university awarded her the President’s Medal.

Predeceased by her husband Frank in 1978, she is survived by her daughters Deirdre, Fionnuala, Máire, Niamh, son Aidan and sister Sheila.

Margaret Mary Lyddy: born May 9th, 1920; died December 14th, 2009