There was profound sadness in the community as Mrs Maria Lilley life’s journey ended January the 3rd 2023. Late of 1 Drumkeen Court, Ederney she passed away peacefully at Altnagelvin Hospital surrounded by her loving family following a recent medical procedure. The former schoolteacher and church sacristan was aged 92 years old.
She was the beloved wife of the late Packie R.I.P, much loved mother of Brendan (Louise) and Martin (Denise), loving grandma of Hannah, Rebecca, Jessica, Ronan, Emmett and Callum, the cherished sister of Brian and the late Eithne, Isadore and dear cousin of Jimmy R.I.P.
Marie, as she was affectionately known, was a remarkable lady, always smiling and showed so much kindness to so many. She brought a dedication and a joyfulness to her work that was grounded in her deep faith. Although esteemed as a ‘community legend’, the term “lesser people” never featured in her mindset as she graciously treated all creeds and classes equally and never criticising people thereby making her admired by so many and enhancing her popularity among all generations of people. In fact, she was at the heart of our community when it came to kindness to all as she made her pathway through life. Now that her life becomes a memory, that memory becomes a treasure.
In this contributed tribute her remarkable life is recalled which made her such an icon of friendliness in our community and beyond.
Born Maria Theresa Kelly on Monday the 22nd of September in 1930, she had been a relief schoolteacher by career and came from the townland Kilknock at outside Trillick, Co Tyrone to teach in Ederney and initially lodged at Ellie Murphy’s café house on Main Street and thereafter had spent most of her life in Ederney village.
In 1957 she married Patrick Lilley from the townland of Tedd near Irvinestown. They set up home at Drumkeen on the graveyard road on edge of Ederney village. They had two children Brendan and Martin. Sadly, in 1963 her husband died tragically aged 32 years old in a traffic accident at Ardess Cross.
Mrs Lilley was a sprightly lady and enjoyed active life in the community until the last two years or so. Here we relate her life story associated with Ederney as schoolteacher, community advocate and as church sacristan – there is so much to tell, so we have had to summarise her story as follows:
She taught extensively throughout both Tyrone and Fermanagh. However, her Ederney connection first began on one cold winter’s day in January 1950 when she arrived to take up a relief teaching position at Moneyvriece Primary School about a half a mile or so north of the village.
At the time she said,
“I did not know even where to find Ederney. However, travelling by bicycle from my birth home at the bottom of Brougher Mountain… and known at the time as a young 20-year-old Maria Kelly… I made my way through Irvinestown and followed the signpost to Ederney”.
She went on to say,
“I arrived from the high road via High Street and asked some villagers standing at the Townhall railings where is Moneyvriece School? In response I was told the Chapel yard. But not knowing where the Chapel was, I quizzed as to where that was? I was immediately instructed to keep following my nose down the Main Street and over the bridge and keep going and sure you couldn’t miss it!”
On Monday the 8th of January 1950, Maria began her Moneyvriece PS temporary teaching position for eighteen weeks when a teacher was off on maternity leave. Very quickly and with ease she became part of that little three-roomed school teaching infants, senior infants, 1st, and 2nd classes…that’s in today’s language, years one, two, three and four. Maria returned to teach at Moneyvriece PS in 1953, 1955, 1957 and 1969 until the school’s closure on Holy Thursday in April 1972.
The school term of 1953 stood out in Mrs Lilley’s memory in particular as during the weeks of May and June of that year as she as a teacher had to contend with multiple events including children’s Confirmation, Examination (Religious Instruction), the Coronation and an Ordination. Each she said interrupted the normal routine of sums, tables, spellings, reading, writing, etc. but it was also to the joy of children and teachers alike having free days! And speaking of joy, her pupils truly loved the time spent with her as she was so engaging, thoughtful and attentive, treating them all alike.
After her retirement from teaching, she remained active working as a lunchtime supervisor at the new St Joseph’s Primary School at Ardvarney Road which opened in 1972.
Like many schoolteachers of yesterday’s generation, it was an expected requirement to get involved in community or parish life related activities. Mrs Lilley has certainly lived up to that expectation with her being a very enthusiastic volunteer on numerous fronts but her work with senior citizens had been significant.
She was a founder member and first secretary of the Glendarragh Senior Citizens Club established by Ederney Trust in February 1991. Her involvement with supporting the Trust’s members in lobbying for sheltered housing accommodation in the village helped secure such a development at Drumkeen Court and the associated community facility that stemmed from that housing project.
Mrs Lilley had been a fervent and faithful servant of the Culmaine Parish having taken up her sacristan role back in 1976.
It was a demanding role for seven days a week, every week, every year but she enjoyed and embraced the challenges it presented. The job involved essential church housekeeping as well as organising literature, linens, altar items, Eucharist essentials, priest attire and altar staff in preparation for worship.
Although, she had executed her role in St Joseph’s Church with notable efficiency and success, she had acknowledged the support she received from other parishioners in helping to make the operation of the Church and its functions run smoothly. She certainly created a sense of welcome and hospitality to all whilst maintaining a sense of respect and solemnity. As for welcoming young people, she was genuinely adored by the Mass servers, with whom she could naturally communicate with.
Whilst in her sacristan role, she worked with to some six parish priests including the present Fr Frank McManus as well as with his predecessors, Fr Brendan Gallagher, the now Bishop Larry Duffy and with the deceased priests Fr Jack Havlin RIP, Fr Jack Gilsenan RIP, Fr PJ Woods RIP and Fr Eugene Connolly RIP who once served as a curate in the parish.
One of her abiding memories as church sacristan was meeting the late Cardinal Cahal Daly RIP in October 1999 at the funeral of Fr John Eves RIP - a locally born priest who was ordained to the priesthood on the same day as the Cardinal.
Her passion for her parish work knew no bounds. Indeed, she was recognised in 2018 when she became the deserving recipient of the Benemerenti Medal for her exemplary work and commitment when she received the Papal recognition from Pope Francis - only the second ever parishioner to receive this honour- the other being the late Frank McGee RIP.
She decided to retire from her sacristan role in 2020 after almost 44 years of commendable service.
Mrs Lilley was well known for her engaging conversational attribute as she showed a genuine interest in people. Her smiling demeaner was magnetic in making encountering with her memorable and even though she did on occasions prolong the dialogue, people didn’t mind.
In her spare time, she was involved with supporting church overseas missionary work but also had time to do reading, some crosswords, walking and visiting the elderly and housebound.
However, the arrival of the COVID 19 pandemic and unset of mobility and other health issues restricted her activities. She liked keeping active in mind and body so, believe or not, in the last year or so she enjoyed doing jigsaw puzzles!
She was the mother two sons, Brendan who lives in Irvinestown and Martin in London. Indeed, it was her family that featured prominently in her life - being a granny of great kindness.
When able, she had travelled to London at times to visit Martin’s family and of course back home, Brendan and his family were very attentive along with her extended family, neighbours and her numerous friends.
We extend our community sympathy to her sons Brendan and Martin and their families as well as her extended family, friends and neighbours.
She will be sadly missed by so many, and her legacy will never be forgotten.
It is fitting that we conclude this tribute with the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi which typified Mrs Lilley’s deep faith and goodness in life and a prayer she frequently said…
𝐿𝑜𝑟𝑑, 𝑚𝑎𝑘𝑒 𝑚𝑒 𝑎𝑛 𝑖𝑛𝑠𝑡𝑟𝑢𝑚𝑒𝑛𝑡 𝑜𝑓 𝑦𝑜𝑢𝑟 𝑝𝑒𝑎𝑐𝑒.
𝑊ℎ𝑒𝑟𝑒 𝑡ℎ𝑒𝑟𝑒 𝑖𝑠 ℎ𝑎𝑡𝑟𝑒𝑑, 𝑙𝑒𝑡 𝑚𝑒 𝑏𝑟𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑙𝑜𝑣𝑒.
𝑊ℎ𝑒𝑟𝑒 𝑡ℎ𝑒𝑟𝑒 𝑖𝑠 𝑜𝑓𝑓𝑒𝑛𝑐𝑒, 𝑙𝑒𝑡 𝑚𝑒 𝑏𝑟𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑝𝑎𝑟𝑑𝑜𝑛.
𝑊ℎ𝑒𝑟𝑒 𝑡ℎ𝑒𝑟𝑒 𝑖𝑠 𝑑𝑖𝑠𝑐𝑜𝑟𝑑, 𝑙𝑒𝑡 𝑚𝑒 𝑏𝑟𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑢𝑛𝑖𝑜𝑛.
𝑊ℎ𝑒𝑟𝑒 𝑡ℎ𝑒𝑟𝑒 𝑖𝑠 𝑒𝑟𝑟𝑜𝑟, 𝑙𝑒𝑡 𝑚𝑒 𝑏𝑟𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑡𝑟𝑢𝑡ℎ.
𝑊ℎ𝑒𝑟𝑒 𝑡ℎ𝑒𝑟𝑒 𝑖𝑠 𝑑𝑜𝑢𝑏𝑡, 𝑙𝑒𝑡 𝑚𝑒 𝑏𝑟𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑓𝑎𝑖𝑡ℎ.
𝑊ℎ𝑒𝑟𝑒 𝑡ℎ𝑒𝑟𝑒 𝑖𝑠 𝑑𝑒𝑠𝑝𝑎𝑖𝑟, 𝑙𝑒𝑡 𝑚𝑒 𝑏𝑟𝑖𝑛𝑔 ℎ𝑜𝑝𝑒.
𝑊ℎ𝑒𝑟𝑒 𝑡ℎ𝑒𝑟𝑒 𝑖𝑠 𝑑𝑎𝑟𝑘𝑛𝑒𝑠𝑠, 𝑙𝑒𝑡 𝑚𝑒 𝑏𝑟𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑦𝑜𝑢𝑟 𝑙𝑖𝑔ℎ𝑡.
𝑊ℎ𝑒𝑟𝑒 𝑡ℎ𝑒𝑟𝑒 𝑖𝑠 𝑠𝑎𝑑𝑛𝑒𝑠𝑠, 𝑙𝑒𝑡 𝑚𝑒 𝑏𝑟𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑗𝑜𝑦.
𝑂 𝑀𝑎𝑠𝑡𝑒𝑟, 𝑙𝑒𝑡 𝑚𝑒 𝑛𝑜𝑡 𝑠𝑒𝑒𝑘 𝑎𝑠 𝑚𝑢𝑐ℎ
𝑡𝑜 𝑏𝑒 𝑐𝑜𝑛𝑠𝑜𝑙𝑒𝑑 𝑎𝑠 𝑡𝑜 𝑐𝑜𝑛𝑠𝑜𝑙𝑒,
𝑡𝑜 𝑏𝑒 𝑢𝑛𝑑𝑒𝑟𝑠𝑡𝑜𝑜𝑑 𝑎𝑠 𝑡𝑜 𝑢𝑛𝑑𝑒𝑟𝑠𝑡𝑎𝑛𝑑,
𝑡𝑜 𝑏𝑒 𝑙𝑜𝑣𝑒𝑑 𝑎𝑠 𝑡𝑜 𝑙𝑜𝑣𝑒,
𝑓𝑜𝑟 𝑖𝑡 𝑖𝑠 𝑖𝑛 𝑔𝑖𝑣𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑡ℎ𝑎𝑡 𝑜𝑛𝑒 𝑟𝑒𝑐𝑒𝑖𝑣𝑒𝑠,
𝑖𝑡 𝑖𝑠 𝑖𝑛 𝑠𝑒𝑙𝑓-𝑓𝑜𝑟𝑔𝑒𝑡𝑡𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑡ℎ𝑎𝑡 𝑜𝑛𝑒 𝑓𝑖𝑛𝑑𝑠,
𝑖𝑡 𝑖𝑠 𝑖𝑛 𝑝𝑎𝑟𝑑𝑜𝑛𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑡ℎ𝑎𝑡 𝑜𝑛𝑒 𝑖𝑠 𝑝𝑎𝑟𝑑𝑜𝑛𝑒𝑑,
𝑖𝑡 𝑖𝑠 𝑖𝑛 𝑑𝑦𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑡ℎ𝑎𝑡 𝑜𝑛𝑒 𝑖𝑠 𝑟𝑎𝑖𝑠𝑒𝑑 𝑡𝑜 𝑒𝑡𝑒𝑟𝑛𝑎𝑙 𝑙𝑖𝑓𝑒.
A legend in her lifetime, may her soul rest in the eternal peace of Christ our Lord and Saviour.
Very deeply regretted and sadly missed by her sorrowing sons, daughters-in-law, grandchildren, brother and entire family circle.
May Her Gentle Soul Rest In Peace.

Poem by James Gallagher

You may also like

Back to Top