The death occurred on November 26th last of one of Tubbercurry’s best loved and best-known citizens, Margaret Killoran.
Born in October 1973 to parents Anne and Tommy Killoran, Margaret was diagnosed with Down Syndrome at birth and was seen and treated as ‘Special’ from the word go.
However, her ‘Special’ or ‘Additional’ needs did not stop her from having a zest for life, and she was a complete person who led a complete and rounded life.
This 48-year-old Margaret packed more activity and love into her life than many ‘normal’ people would pack into half a dozen lives.
Over the days of her funeral, her family, friends and neighbours spoke so lovingly of the Margaret they knew, and people laughed and cried in equal measure as stories and incidences were exchanged so freely.
Margaret was compared to a precious diamond, that glistened from various corners and that had a variety of sides and facets. She was a daughter and sister, a trailblazer in this community and beyond, a sports fan, worker, musician, dancer, world traveller, soaps specialist... the list goes on. Most of all however, Margaret was her own individual person.
At her funeral mass, Fr. Sherlock compared Margaret to a Prophet, not because she foresaw the future, but because she led society into a better place, into a place and space of acceptance of difference, and of incredible love. Difference is beautiful.
Margaret’s eulogy was delivered by her five siblings and it encapsulated beautifully, not only the wonderful life that Margaret herself had, but it shone a light on how, because of Margaret, us as friends and a community had a much better life because of Margaret’s presence.
One spoke of Margaret as a trailblazer.
Ireland of the 1970’s was still in the shadow of earlier decades when differences were not accepted. Margaret never saw herself as different, but she grew up in a time when society did see her as different, handicapped (to use the language of the time) or disabled. Margaret was determined she would lead her own life. She broke down barriers and glass ceilings so that society learned more from her that she learned from society.
Margaret the person!
Margaret had a mischievous side to her, and as a teenager after watching a bank robbery movie, she decided Tubbercurry needed a similar piece of excitement. Armed with a toy gun she entered Bank of Ireland with robbery in mind. Fortunately, she did not succeed in her endeavour and was reprimanded for her actions.
However, Bank of Ireland never forgot her actions and years later after a bank renovation, she was invited back to cut the ribbon on the renovation works. Her celebrity status was complete.
The South Sligo Summer School of music, song and dance was always a big week for Margaret since her teenage years. She learned to play the Bodhran and Spoons, and could join in with any traditional music session. She prided herself on playing with world greats of traditional music such as Peter Horan, Fred Finn and Harry McGowan to name just a few. She was also an able dancer and her party piece was the ‘Brush Dance’.
Killoran’s Lounge and Bar was the centre of Margaret’s world and she worked there as she pleased and welcomed in strangers, and sent than home as friends. The Irish nights of Killorans in the 1980’s, 90’s and until recent years of this century were legendary, and Margaret was both a host and entertainer.
Margaret was a sportsperson and supporter. She was a Special Olympics golfer of note but her love of Gaelic football was evident for all to see. As well as supporting Tubbercurry and Sligo, she always looked forward to her trips to Dublin with her mum and dad to the All-Ireland finals. Her favourite teams were Kerry and Dublin, but Tyrone were also high on her list as her sister Annie lived in Tyrone.
Margaret was a pragmatist to the last and always had a jersey of both participant finalists at hand, so that she was always on the winning side.
She loved meeting sporting celebrities with favourites being Pat Spillane and Paudie O’Shea from Kerry and the boxer Chris Eubank.
Margaret loved travelling and was lucky to visit families and friends in the USA, Europe and the Caribbean. She loved being asked to dance or play music wherever she went. She had a great interest in politics, and her vote was never taken for granted or won easily. She had a good knowledge of the local politicians and could see through a bluffer.
Most of all Margaret gave unconditional love, and her hugs were genuine, that melted the hardest of hearts. Society, not alone locally but nationally is better for special people like Margaret!
When in her own space, Margaret loved listening to music, especially her favourite artist Tommy Fleming. Tommy’s music and his choice of songs probably, touched a chord with Margaret and it was so lovely that her favourite artist was able to attend her funeral and sing so beautifully that magnificent song “Good Bye My Old Friend”. The beautiful words of the song spoke for everybody.
“A social butterfly with an infectious laugh, she will always have a special place in our hearts”.
Margaret truly was “a child that awoke a town”.
As one reflects on the legacy left by Margaret Killoran, we must look to Gallager House in Tubbercurry for answers. With an infant growing up with Down Syndrome, Margaret’s mother and father looked to the future to see what was in store for little Margaret when she became an adult. In the 1970’s there was little or no facilities any place in Ireland for people with ‘Special’ or ‘Additional’ needs, and many of them were locked away in institutions. Anne and Tom Killoran were determined they would not be the lot for their little Margaret, and so a plan was drawn up to develop a resource centre for adults with special needs, based in the Community in which they lived.
Some considered this a mad or unachievable dream. Fundraising was begun by Anne, a premises was donated by the Gallagher family of Basta and Tool & Gauge fame, and slowly but surely the dream became a reality. The entire community got behind the idea as did the Health Board and now, thanks to Margaret Killoran’s innocence and radiating love, we have Gallagher home Resource Centre, Mulholland House Respite Home and numerous homes around Tubbercurry for dozens of special and additional needs people.
These special people are part of the community, all thanks to the birth of Margaret Killoran, and to her parents Anne and Tommy Killoran.