Mary O'Rourke charms all at Enniscorthy Library
Town and Country Life with Maria Nolan
I am glad to say that I had the distinct pleasure recently of having tea with former Minister for Education, Minister for Health, and Minister for Public Enterprise and author of Just Mary and The Letters of my Life - the affable Mary O'Rourke, who was at Enniscorthy Library speaking about her latest book.
And what a pleasure it was to meet and converse with this most entertaining, hugely amusing, extremely interesting, warm, genial grande dame of Irish politics, who at 81 has just written her second book - The Letters of My Life.
I had met Mary O'Rourke on previous occasions and she reminded me that the last time was four years ago in the Ferrycarrig Hotel - not a bad memory for an octogenarian. Mary also has that rare gift for a politician of making others feel that they, rather than her, are the important ones and when press photographer Ger Hore arrived she immediately offered him a cup of tea, as if she were the host in her own kitchen at home in Athlone and not the guest speaker at Enniscorthy Library.
We chatted amicably about her trip through the midlands and Storm Doris, Ger Hore told her about being on the presidential campaign with her late brother Brian and she told us how often she hears stories of Brian from people who met him. 'And they always seem so proud to have known him,' she said happily.
James Browne TD was the next to call in to see Mary and she complimented him for something he had said on Mental Health in the Dail during the week, telling him that he was most articulate - praise indeed from teacher, politican and author Mary O'Rourke.
We talked of Enniscorthy and Strawberry Fairs and Literary Festivals and inevitably Vinegar Hill and 1798 and she was intrigued with the name Scalders and the reason we got it. She was about 10 minutes behind schedule at this stage so decided she'd better head in and begin her talk but not before she had a word with Enda from Byrnes Bookshop who was looking after the sales of her book on the night. Mary remembered him by name of course from her previous time at the library - Enda also being her late husband's name and dear to her heart.
She immediately captured the Enniscorthy audience talking about and reading from the wonderful collection of letters to people past and present, close and distant, living and dead. Each letter is warm, and beautifully written and offers gratitude to the recipient for the difference they made to Mary's life even though they may not have known it.
Mary has done what most of us would like to do but properly never will, tell people what they mean to us and in her letters she speaks to the dead as if they are listening exactly the same as the living, a testament to her strong faith and belief that we will all meet again in a better place.
The Letters of My Life is full of nostalgia, friendship and gratitude and give a tremendous insight into one of Ireland's best-known and most-loved public figures.