Ms Eileen Hanna

EILEEN Hanna, known affectionately as ‘The Ballagh Baby’, passed away at her Ballaghbeg Park home in Newcastle on November 5 last year. She was 94.

Born in the Ballagh, the daughter of the late Mary-Ann (Toner) and Bernard Hanna, Eileen lived on the family farm along with her six siblings and two aunts.

Eileen had a happy, but difficult childhood as her father died when she was young, leaving the women in charge. Things were far from easy.

Eileen, the youngest of this family of long lived and hard working women, was educated at St Mary’s Primary School, Glasdrumman. On leaving school she entered the world of work, employed in the ‘big houses’ of Newcastle before joining her sister Susan as a housemaid in the Slieve Donard Hotel where she worked for 23 years.

Once heard never forgotten, this colourful, opinionated character was known throughout the district, and for most of her life was out and about and rarely in the house. 

She loved to be ‘glammed up’ in her pinks and blues and her earrings and pearls. A keen bingo fan, she travelled to sessions far and wide and was also a member of Age Concern and Arthritis Care.

Eileen loved socialising, attending concerts and singing but most of all she loved her food and was connoisseur of fine cuisine. Eileen loved life and enjoyed the simple pleasures of life: ‘a nice bus run, a big feed and a good mug of tea’.

Eileen had excellent health up until the age of 86 when she was admitted to hospital for the first time. Following her stroke Eileen made a good recovery but unfortunately she subsequently fell and broke her hip while attending church. This ended her independence and was the start of her being confined to her home which was alien for Eileen.

People were not always kind to Eileen but her resilience shone through following an arson attack on her home at the age of 88 when flammable liquid was poured through her letterbox and set alight. The culprit was never caught but Eileen stood her ground and refused to leave her home.

In many ways Eileen related better to animals than people and she was very kind to animals. It therefore was fitting that ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’, one of her favourite hymns, was sung at her funeral mass.

Animals permeated her whole life from growing up on the family farm. This ’bird woman of Ballaghbeg’ fed the wild birds every morning, gave all the stray cats a dinner and was devoted to her dogs; in many ways her home resembled an animal rescue centre.

Eileen had, however, a fondness for one animal in particular, the African elephant, and on hearing of their plight and near extinction in the wild got involved with the World Wildlife Fund rescue mission and sponsored orphaned elephant ‘Emily Kate’.

Sadly this generation of the Hanna family is no more, for in the past century they were well known in the Newcastle area.

Eileen was predeceased by her sisters, Mary, Susan, Maggie, Josephine and Lizzie, and only brother William. Also in recent months she was predeceased by her nieces, Pamela-Ann in England and Yvonne in Scotland and her niece Mary’s husband, Jimmy Major. May they all rest in peace.

The Major Family would like to thank all those for their kind words and support during these times of bereavement.