Mary Norton our heart and our spirit
JIM NORTON, former agriculture editor of the Farming Independent, remembers Mary as an older sister an incredibly bossy older sister who, right up to the day she died, kept him on his toes.
``I will miss her terribly, especially for her ability to keep me out of trouble,'' he said over the weekend. ``If she was unhappy with something I said or did, she would very quickly let me know.
``She would always offer an opinion on what I was doing, suggesting ways of doing things better.''
In the early 1950s, when there was no hot water and no electricity, he remembers her milking cows by hand and then, with the advent of electricity, a bucket plant was purchased on the farm, making the job of milking the herd easier.
``Mary loved animals and she always wanted to be a farmer, though she hated parting with cows that had to be sold.''
The Norton's herd started small with 10 cows, but grew to over 100. They were Shorthorn cows, a breed which Mary loved, never really taking to the black-and-white Friesians which became more commonplace.
Jim and Mary worked side by side in the early days in the Irish Independent, and in latter years on CKR where they co-presented a weekly show.
Deadlines were her scourge, and Jim says she broke his heart when it came to meeting deadlines and ``filling holes in pages.''
``We had some frightful rows, and we wouldn't talk to each other for hours. But then Mary would give me a big hug and tell me it wasn't worth falling out over and we would be as thick as thieves again.''
Jim says she found writing a bore; yet she loved it. She was an avid reader and intellectually brilliant, he recalls. And she loved stimulating conversation.
But money meant nothing to her. ``Years ago, she was offered a contract worth £5,000 to write a book, but turned it down because she didn't want to be committed to producing a book.
``She enjoyed being free to do whatever she felt like at any given time. Signing up to a contract would limit that freedom.''
She had an abiding love for life, she was a very keen gardener and was totally devoted to her bonsai trees, of which she had a very large collection.
That almost-settled picture of the mature Mary came after a more typical, harum scarum youth. Table tennis was a big interest for all the Nortons, and many's a return journey after a match and a dance saw the youthful trio (and their companions) head for different corners of Pat Keogh's hayshed.
Some time after one such encounter, the same Pat Keogh was playing cards in Nortons. He looked at Mary's father and said: ``Be god boss, we had a sick bullock and when the vet opened him he found a Pioneer Pin inside.''
Apparently, in the emotion of the haybarn, Mary's Pioneer Pin had become detatched. As she sat listening to Pat relate the story to her father, she turned every possible shade of red!
``The biggest tribute to Mary,'' says Jim, ``is that, since she went into Peamount on December 4, 1996, she was never without a friend by her side from early morning to late at night.''
As the cancer took hold, the availability of the pain killing morphine pump made her life bearable.
However, Peamount were she was so well cared for does not have sufficient pumps and Jim is determined to rectify this situation by raising funds.
It is something he wants to do, for those who are and will in future be faced with coping with the pain of cancer. It will, he feels, be a fitting memory to his late much-loved sister, Mary.
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