Sr Martha never lost her love of Kerry

The late Sr Martha Harris


THE DEATH has occurred of Sr Martha Harris, Clonakilty, Co. Cork and formerly of Church Street, Tralee. Sr Martha died on Tuesday, June 4, having dedicated her life to the service of the Mercy Order and God.

Helen Harris was born to Denis and Mary Harris, Church Street, Tralee on September 27,1917. She had one brother, Denis (Din Joe) and two sisters Mary and Margaret (Maggie).

On December 8,1936, she left Tralee to begin her life as a Sister of Mercy in Clonakilty, Co Cork. She vowed and promised to God that she would persevere until death in the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy.

She had no idea then what lay ahead nor that she would live to see so many dramatic changes in the world around her. It was a journey of faith. Asked recently by her niece, Ann, if she had her life over again would she choose the same path, her answer was an emphatic YES.

Over the years, she looked after the Sisters in the Clonakilty Community and the children in the orphanage.

She showed a keen interest in the activities of the local parish and baked and cooked for various activities as they arose.

She watched the school children walking up the path each morning. Little did they know that she continually prayed for them and wished them well. She worked hard, realising that the ordinary actions of every day were done with the pure intention of pleasing God.

She had great devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and to Our Blessed Lady.

Next to the Bible, her favourite reading material was "The Kerryman". This came in the post each week from her brother Din Joe, and later from a good Tralee friend Liam Falvey. Liam died a few years ago R.I.P.

She regaled her community with stories she read; and "The Kerryman" was passed around to any other Sister who had Kerry connections.

Although Sr. Martha left Kerry in 1936, she never lost her love for her home county. She appreciated its beauty and knew that the same charm does not exist in any other county in Ireland or, indeed in any other place in the world!

She didn't need "Google" to recall highlights of the 20th century. She remembered the first radio coming to her house. Her father put a chair on the table and on top of that the radio. Neighbours came to listen. So many arrived that windows had to be opened and people stood outside.

She knew all the characters and places associated with the song "The Rose of Tralee" and was able to tell the real story behind John B. Keane's "The Field".

She knew the hardships and struggles of being born at the end of one World War and living through another.

When the GAA season began, Sr. Martha sat at the television urging on her own County. All enjoyed her humorous Commentary, which was, of course, in favour of Kerry.

She was visiting her family in Tralee in 1980 when John Joe Sheehy, the Kerry footballer died.

Sr. Martha's greatest claim to fame in GAA circles was when her Rosary Beads was placed in John Joe's hands and buried with him.

She lived to see her parents, her brother and sisters die and was very much aware that she was the last of her generation. And with that generation went a lot of values and traditions that Kerry people held dear.

In later years, Sr. Martha accepted with patience and tranquillity her long illness.

She spent her final years in Mount Carmel Hospital, Clonakilty. She endeared herself to the staff who were wonderful to her and to them, Sr. Martha became known as "The Rose of Tralee".

Visitors never left without singing her favourite song!

When the Kerry matches were being played, her bed was decorated in the green and gold, of which she was so proud.

Over the years, Sr. Martha got to know all the Kerry people who lived in Clonakilty.

This was very evident at her funeral, when her Kerry friends, whose parents or grandparents she had known, participated in the Liturgy and helped carry her coffin.

She died peacefully on June 4, in the presence of her niece Ann and members of her Community.

She is survived by her niece, Ann Wynne, her nephew Tommy Riddel, grandniece, grandnephews and great grandnephews, all of whom live in Galway City and members of her Religious Community.

We loved her in life; we will not forget her in death.


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