Mary thanks ICA for open­ing doors to her lo­cal com­mu­nity

Irish Examiner - Farming - - COUNTRY LIVING - He­len O’cal­laghan

Gre­nagh Guild pres­i­dent Mary Conway says ICA was a life­line for her when she joined in the 1980s. Although liv­ing in the area for 27 years at that stage, she didn’t feel part of the com­mu­nity un­til she joined ICA. “It opened doors for me. It re­ally did,” says Mary, who’s orig­i­nally from Manch­ester, though her back­ground is “very Ir­ish”.

She ini­tially joined Whitechurch Guild where she stayed for 33 years. In the early 1980s, Whitechurch ICA had 73 mem­bers — by the time it closed it had just eight. “I knew all the girls in Gre­nagh Guild very well. I go to An Gri­anán of­ten and the Gre­nagh girls were al­ways there. They asked me to join them.” Mary met her hus­band, Kevin Conway, in 1955 out­side St Pa­trick’s Church on Cork’s Lower Glan­mire Road.

He was a rel­a­tive of a friend that Mary had made while work­ing in the US — the friend in­vited her to visit Cork and Mary’s fate was sealed. “We more or less did fall in love straight away. I met him in 1955 and we were mar­ried in 1956.”

A freight driver with CIE, Kevin had unso­cia­ble hours, Mary didn’t drive — and the cou­ple also had 13 chil­dren — so she didn’t feel free to join ICA for a cou­ple of decades. “My youngest was about 10 when I joined in 1983. So­cially, it gave me the chance to do things I’d al­ways been in­ter­ested in — arts and crafts, pub­lic speak­ing, light en­ter­tain­ment and bal­lad singing. I got into all of these, which was won­der­ful for me and I was do­ing them with lovely peo­ple.”

Her mu­si­cal in­ter­ests span a wide range. A mem­ber of a choir in Kil­leagh, they re­cently did a recital in Kil­leagh Hall. She also sings for tour- ists in Blar­ney Cas­tle Ho­tel. She at­tends art classes on Tues­days run by Blar­ney ICA with teacher Anne Car­leton, a Gre­nagh Guild mem­ber. “Gre­nagh Guild has just seven mem­bers, yet three have ex­ec­u­tive func­tions. Anne is mid-cork vice-pres­i­dent, Ena How­ell’s re­gional pres­i­dent for the South West and Mar­ion Twomey’s An Gri­anán teachta. They’re great work­ers for ICA.” Aside from the com­pan­ion­ship ICA of­fers women, Mary says the whole pur­pose of the or­gan­i­sa­tion is to make life eas­ier for women and she cites ICA lob­by­ing on so­cial is­sues — from cam­paign­ing around Cer­vi­calcheck right back to the days when they called for ru­ral elec­tri­fi­ca­tion.

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Na­tional ICA vice-pres­i­dent for the South and West Ena How­ell and Gre­nagh Guild pres­i­dent Mary Conway.

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