Maureen made national news for births of twins and triplets
THE PEOPLE of Gorey were saddened to learn of the passing on March 16 last of Maureen Coughlan Cavanagh Byrne of St Philomena's, Fort Road, Gorey. She was well known to many for spending her working life behind the counter of Coughlan's Shop in Gorey.
She also came to national attention in the early 1950s, when she featured in national newspapers after she had seven children in the space of three-and-a-half years, including and twins and triplets. She passed away at the age of 92 at Middletown House Nursing Home.
Maureen was born in Carfin, outside Motherwell in Scotland, the only daughter of Christopher and Jane Coughlan Cavanagh. Jane was a Gorey native, who went to Edinburgh to teach French, and Christopher, a Scottish native, was renowned as an outstanding bagpipe player. When Maureen was three, they moved to Gorey, where Jane's sister was running Coughlan's shop at 87 Main Street, where Back 2 Front is now. Christopher started St. Michael's Pipe Band in Gorey with Johnny Leacy in 1938. Maureen went to the Loreto school, and worked in the family business. When she was in her early 20s, she met local man Paddy Byrne in the church choir, and they married on June 18, 1947. They set up home at St Philomena's on the Fort Road, and in the space of three-and-a-half years, they had seven children, including triplets, and 11 months later, twins.
At one stage, she had seven cots in the house, and understandably, she needed help from locals such as Nurse Dempsey and Nurse Cummins. The daily chores included washing seven cot sheets, 48 cloth nappies, and countless other cloths, and 24 bottles had to be sterilised every day.
An iconic photograph of her with the children featured a meal time, where she fed all seven children from a large ceramic bowl, serving a spoonful each in turn. Various companies came to the rescue with offers of baby products so they could promote their goods.
The triplets were premature, and only one baby was expected. The three babies arrived ten minutes apart in October 1951, and Nurse Dempsey Patchell and Dr Connolly quickly had their hands full. The babies were only around 3.5 lbs weight.
In those days, with home births, and without the benefit of hospital incubators, the fire had to be kept going in the house, day and night, to ensure the babies' survival. The snow arrived in December, and it was a cold bad winter. The fire never went out in that bedroom until Easter.
When the triplets and twins were Christened, they had to be Christened at home as they were so delicate, and Canon Harpur insisted on coming to the house.
In later years, six of the children made their Confirmation at the same time, and the triplets featured on 'School around the Corner' with Paddy Crosbie. The family included: eldest son Sean; Sinead who was born a year-and-a-half later; the triplets, Paddy, Martin and Christy, born a year later; and then eleven months later, twins Eamonn and Maureen. The family grew yet again a year-and-a-half later, with the arrival of Ger. Jim was born two years after that, and finally, Angela was born three years later. All through the years, Maureen and Paddy continued to be very resourceful, as multiple sets of school books and clothing had to be provided for. Paddy worked in the Leather Factory, while Maureen worked in the family shop, with local girls looking after the children until she returned home.
In her spare time, she was involved in the ICA, and loved to sing in the ICA shows. She and Paddy remained in the church choir, and in later years, they were joined in the choir by their daughters Maureen and Sinead.
Maureen loved working in the shop, and knew everybody from across the district. Despite being so well known, she never enjoyed the limelight, and whereas Paddy was well known on the local stage, Maureen preferred to stay in the background.
She retired from the shop in the early 1990s, and enjoyed her retirement, spending time with her family, especially with her 26 grandchildren.
She was predeceased by Paddy in 2007, and was also predeceased by her sons Sean and Christy, and her son-in-law Michael and grandchild Roisín.
Maureen's Funeral Mass took place in St Michael's Church, Gorey, on Wednesday, March 19, and she was laid to rest in St Michael's Cemetery afterwards. Gorey Pipe Band accompanied her funeral. Maureen Coughlan Cavanagh Byrne is survived by her children Sinead, Paddy, Martin, Eamonn, Maureen, Jim, Ger, and Angela, son-in-law, daughters-in-law, sister-in-law, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and a wide circle of family and friends. Rest in Peace.