Mellie Enwright of Kilmihil 1914-2009


There is a person in every parish whom everybody knows.  They are so much a part of the everyday fabric of the community that when they go they leave an emptiness in the lives of everyone which is very difficult to replace.  They are not always noted for being the main organisers of parish life.  They go about their daily affairs, but in doing so give an example of how life can be lived to the full and with quiet dignity.  Mellie Enright was one such person.

She was born Mary Catherine Enright on 18th May 1914. Her father, Thomas, was one of seven boys born to Richard Enright and Brigid Mc Inerney (Gowerhass, Kilrush).  Her mother was Catherine Hanrahan from Kilmihil.  Mellie was the eldest of a big family.  She went to Lacken National School, Kilmihil and left a graphic account of school life ‘Arriving at school, the fire had to be set and lit, ashes cleared out and the sweepings of the floor from the previous day being removed. During the summer months there was no fire needed.  There was room one  called the CLASSROOM – infants to 3rd class- room two the BIG ROOM- 4th to 7th class. We were a Girls school. The Boys school was next door’

 ‘During my time we began learning the Irish Language.. we found it difficult because until then it had been forbidden to speak or teach it at home and the parents had only an odd phrase and teachers were mostly beginners too’.

‘There was one day when the Tans were in power. We heard lorries coming from the West.  We were all ordered to lie on the  floor.  We heard them pass the gate of the school.  The shooting began…but they kept firing.  They were taking pot shots at someone they saw down in the bog. Nothing else happened that day’.

Mellie gave a vivid account of the last day at school before the summer holidays- big clean up and a party enjoyed  by teachers and pupils.

After finishing in Lacken National School, Mellie went into service which seems to have been in Limerick by 1931 and in Kilrush by 1935. In 1935 one copy book of hers gives essays and homework which she did attending Vocational Commercial Class in The Market House Kilrush or Town Hall Kilrush. To quote from one of her essays circa 1935:

Thanks be to goodness I haven’t had that misfortune to fall in love. It seems scarcely worth the trouble to my way of thinking anyway, so fraught, is it worth many perils.  I think love should be left until people are free to marry if they so decide, and not have every second school boy and girl think they are in love with each other. It somehow spoils what I think would, in the right time , be something precious’

in later life she is also quoted as having said it would have been unfair to choose one of the many suitors as picking one would sadden all the others. We have to conclude she was not without her chances!

In the early 1940’s Mellie moved back to Kilmihil and opened a shop in Church Street which later expanded in the 1960’s and remained in business until about 1980. Her shop was reputed to stock ‘all kinds of everything’. The cataloguing of goods stored was unreliable and in no particular order. The best thing to do when going into her shop was just to ask for what you wanted.  She would  then disappear into the depths behind the counter, muttering that she had some of them somewhere. If she did not find what you wanted, she would always suggest where it could be obtained. Mellie’s recording of meetings and involvement in community affairs, however, was excellent and meticulous. She was associated with all of the following groups:

  • Local drama group-member
  • Discussion group – member
  • Pioneer youth abstinence association, founding member
  • St Joseph’s Young Priests Society, founding member and secretary
  • Legion of Mary.

She lived locally but it is a lovely thought to think of how far her influence extended. Through her membership of St Joseph’s Young Priests Society many priests were educated and provided with chalices, vestments and money to allow them to carry out their work. She sent countless livestock to Africa over the years to benefit the less fortunate. She did not have children of her own, but here must be meitheals of children in the developing world that in part owed their survival and education to her generosity.

She loved people to call to see her. However, never one to do anything by half, a new neighbour would be welcomed and introduced to the Rosary, which would consist of all fifteen decades – joyful, sorrowful and glorious. In 2008 when she became more frail she wrote the following to Jossie Clancy-‘The only thing I can manage at the minute is to pray for every one of my friends. I don’t have any enemies as far as I know, so if someone doesn’t like me, they have it all to themselves’. She was blessed with the type of personality that would allow her to make her point without making an enemy.

Gifted with intelligence and a memory that didn’t fail until the last months of her life, she was a fountain of knowledge on local folklore some of the stories she passed on are reproduced in the Days Past section of this website.

The retelling of a story could never do justice to Mellie’s description of the event and for those of us fortunate enough to have known Mellie, there is no need to paint a picture. We each have an image of her diminutive figure, her ready wit and intelligence and her great good nature that was so much in evidence in her charitable endeavours.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: ‘It is one of the beautiful compensations of life that no man can sincerely wish to help another without helping himself’. Mellie’s personality reflected her sincere wish to help others and she managed this in so many ways. She lived a life of many parts; daughter, sister, aunt, shopkeeper, legionary, kind neighbour, charitable giver, good Christian, local historian and story teller.

When someone like Mellie dies we lose more than the physical presence of that person. An immense amount of local knowledge, history and custom is also lost. The greatest tribute we can pay  to local story tellers is to listen to their stories and record them. They provide an invaluable view of life in the past and serve as a fitting tribute to people like Mellie, who contributed so much during her life.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh sí.