Eileen Jude passed away on Valentine’s day -just two weeks after celebrating her 106th birthday.
She was a remarkable person in many ways. Born into the Garrahy family of the Square, Ennistymon, County Clare, on 29th January 1915, Eileen did not have an easy childhood.
She was just one of 13 children living in a three-bedroomed house, which still stands today and is used as a business premises in the town.
As a toddler, Eileen became aware of the first World War when the adults listened to radios and gleaned terrible news from newspapers.
In 1918, along with stories of war, the arrival of the Spanish Flu virus in Ireland brought disastrous consequences to the Garrahy family.
Over 20,000 people died of the epidemic in Ireland with over 80,000 infected. Despite county Clare being one of the least infected counties in the country, Eileen lost three of her brothers to the flu during the Christmas period of 1918.
Her parents, Michael (Mick) and Eileen (Helen) Vaughan no doubt worked hard for the sake of their children. Mick was a blacksmith and had a forge near the current library building in Ennistymon.
Since most people had horses it was a busy life for her father. Later in life, Eileen would often recount how her father used to make bayonets for the local ‘volunteers’ during the war of Independence which raged on in Ireland from 1919 to 1921.
She spoke of the ‘fair days’ in the town when politics would be especially debated in the Square.
Eileen’s mother also called Eileen (née Vaughan) but known to family as Helen was from the nearby St. Bridget’s Well area, close to Liscannor.
In 1930 when Eileen was just 14 years old, she lost her mother due to cancer. Eileen’s brother Jack moved to be with family in Doolin after their mother’s death -a common practice during those difficult times.
The good days were the visits to Lahinch for the day out and if you had four pence you could take the train along the West Clare railway line, otherwise Eileen would walk from Ennistymon to Lahinch.
At 19 years of age, Eileen set sail for England to train as a Nurse at the Chest Hospital, London. Her niece Kay Garrahy, who became a regular visitor to Eileen in later years, praised her aunt ‘Nellie’ for being a most wonderful nurse and heard from Eileen how she nursed many of the survivors of World War II.
Upon meeting Eileen at New Quay School many years later I saw a kind, elegant and very astute lady of 101 years old, share her memories with the school children who were in absolute awe of her.
It was easy to imagine her as a wonderful nurse who could remain calm under many awful circumstances.
While living in England, Eileen at 23 years old married Ernest Jude from Cambridgeshire and they had two children, Philip and Jennifer (RIP).
Along with her husband, Eileen went into the pub trade in East London and according to all accounts she ran a tight ship during those years.
Following her husband’s death in London, Eileen returned home to Ireland. There, she began her 30-year old love-affair with Flaggy Shore, where she built a beautiful home on the North Clare Coast. Eileen made many friends around New Quay and along with her son Philip in particular, they soaked in the beauty around them.
She loved to visit Linnane’s Pub and Restaurant where Brenda Linnane was proprietor back then and snuggled up to the roaring fire to enjoy a glass of wine and a good meal.
Brenda has a vivid memory of a popular Welsh choir visiting the pub one afternoon during their trip to Ireland for a competition. Mrs. Jude struck up a conversation with the choir members and charmed them to the point that they stood up and gave her a private performance right there in the pub.
She had a great ability to draw people towards her. She regaled young and old with snippets of her life experience but at the same time managed to be a private person.
One night during a function at Linnane’s pub, when ‘Little Christmas’ was being celebrated by all the ladies of the parish, Mrs. Jude was presented with a large celebratory cake a few weeks before her 100th birthday.
She was a ‘little put-out’ as she was not yet one hundred at that time and didn’t like too much fuss. You could say that was the ‘private side’ of her character.
Yet the caring side of Eileen’s nature always came to the fore. Whenever friends or relatives visited her she would insist on making them a cup of tea even if she herself wasn’t well.
One year she invited several of the local primary school children for afternoon tea at her house on Flaggy shore.
Even though, the children were quite young she insisted on using her best china teacups and served plates of daintily-made sandwiches and scones to the youngsters.
The occasion has been etched into their memories for the special time it was.
In 2016 during the centenary commemorations around the country, Eileen was invited to visit New Quay National School.
The children were in absolute awe of this elegant centenarian and still hold a huge amount of respect for Mrs. Jude today.
She sat and patiently listened and answered their questions and told stories of her youth in Ennistymon. You could hear a pin drop as she spoke.
For the last six years the school children have made a large birthday card on behalf of all the classes at the school and had it delivered to their local heroine.
Last month despite not being at school the children made individual pictures and cards and these were all posted together to make sure Mrs. Jude felt the love coming from New Quay to Ennistyimon.
For the last three years Eileen has lived in Ennistymon’s St. Dominic Savio’s nursing home where she received great love and care.
Sadly Covid-19 arrived upon their doorstep and despite recovering from the virus Mrs. Jude bade us farewell soon afterwards.
She is directly survived by her devoted son Philip and his family along with the family of her daughter Jennifer who sadly passed away in very recent years. Her many nieces and nephews also mourn her passing.
Mrs. Jude was a wonderfully talented set-dancer and loved to dance right into her eighties
I hope we can all remember Eileen for the remarkable lady she was and can feel her spirit dancing along the Flaggy Shore where she settled to make her final home.
She is the last of her siblings to pass from this world to the next. This Thursday the people of Ennistymon, Doolin and New Quay will be saying their goodbyes to Eileen on her final journey from one home to another as she makes her way to Flaggy Shore and New Quay Church for funeral mass and burial.
by Ellie Farrell