Miss Mary Grant

MISS Mary Grant, who died peacefully at King’s Castle Nursing Home, Ardglass, on June 15 at the age of 94, was a former midwife sister at Hardy Greer Hospital in Downpatrick.

To many people in Downpatrick and the surrounding area, she was known simply as Sister Grant. During her remarkable career she could, at times, be formidable, but she was always caring, highly organised, extremely capable and devoted to those in her care.

Miss Grant was born on October 17, 1925 in Buncrana, Co Donegal, where she attended Scoile Mhuire.

At the age of 17 she left for Dublin in order to do her basic nursing training at St Vincent’s Hospital, followed by midwifery training at the Rotunda Hospital, also in Dublin.

On completion of her education Mary moved to Oxford for her first job as a midwife.

When the opportunity arose she came to Northern Ireland to the Ards Hospital in Newtownards delivering, among others, her nephew, David. She was later appointed sister in charge at the Hardy Greer Hospital, part of the Quoile Hospital in Downpatrick.

She was appointed nursing officer shortly before the closure of Hardy Greer and the subsequent move to the newly built maternity hospital in Downpatrick, where she remained until her retirement in the mid 1980s.

She was an accomplished midwife with a strong work ethic and management skills. She was devoted first and foremost to the wellbeing of her patients.

Because she had an apartment attached to Hardy Greer, her work environment was very accessible so her regular workday was often more than 12 hours.

During her career at Hardy Greer she became famous among mothers in the greater Downpatrick area. Walking with her in Downpatrick or in neighbouring towns it was impossible to make fast progress as people were always stopping to greet her. Such manifest displays of affection continued long after her retirement.

For the younger generation, she was known as Auntie Mary, not only to her nephews and nieces but to their friends — even as far as Toronto. 

Miss Grant was remarkable for her warmth, selflessness, generosity, love of young people, devotion to her family, consistent good humour, and readiness to lend a hand.

Not many people were aware that her altruism went beyond dispensing trinkets and banknotes.

In her youth, helped by her sister Maeve, she took under her wing to England an orphaned girl, put her through the nursing training and made sure that she was settled, independent and happy.

She retired to the Sheils Building in Killough where she spent many happy years and devoted herself to her favourite hobbies of gardening and showering her nephews, nieces, grand-nephews and grand-nieces with affection.

In her later years she suffered from dementia, but managed to retain her happy disposition, endearing herself to her new ‘family’ in her final home, King’s Castle in Ardglass.

Among the staff in the nursing home there were many of the ‘babies’ that she delivered years previously.

The family would like to thank wholeheartedly all the workers in the home, whose care for the patients goes well beyond the call of duty.

They contributed to make Mary feel  loved, protected and kept her in good spirits.

Miss Grant had a strong Christian faith which guided her actions through life.

The funeral mass was celebrated in Ardglass on June 18 by Father Gerry McCloskey. It was a lovely occasion despite the restrictions imposed by the lockdown.

Her nieces and nephews came from Ballykelly, Belfast and Derry, while other members of her family in Canada and Australia were able to follow the funeral by webcam.