May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face; the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand….
Agnes (Gertie) fulfilled her wish and died peacefully at home on 6th February aged 89 years.
Her loving son Tom was at her bedside and held her hand as she passed away.
Gertie was born in Ballinalee, County Longford Southern Ireland, on 14th June 1930.
She was the youngest of 11 children, but sadly 1 child died in infancy of Hooping Cough.
Her father, John McKeown was a Master Tailor by trade and ran the business from home.
Her mother Catherine looked after the home and children, Molly, Bridie, Kathleen, Tom
Mike, Patrick, Eveline, Chrissie, John and Gertie.
Some of the older children had left when Gertie was born, but they were a close family and always visited regularly.
Times were hard in Ballinalee and surrounding villages and often John’s customers would pay for their suits
with farm produce, livestock, fowl etc. instead of cash. When the ‘Yanks’ came to the village, business was great, lots of suits were ordered!
Children often went barefoot to school, common in those days.
School was strict, Gertie’s teacher kept a cane in the classroom fireplace to harden!
Gertie left school at 14 to work in Kings Store Ballinalee, next door to her house. She would pack flour, tea and groceries
as well as working behind the counter.
Christmas was busy in the store, early morning to late evening packing gifts for the regular customers, maybe a bottle of port and a bottle of ginger beer for the children wrapped up in brown paper.
Her best friend Peggy still runs the store in Ballinalee aged 88!
At about 18 years of age Gertie left home to work in Belfast, as a live-in housekeeper for a doctors practice.
A couple of years later she came over to England to join her sister Eveline in Birkenhead.
Gertie worked as a live-in housekeeper and nanny to the owner of a wealthy firm of solicitors. She often spoke of the Hispano Suiza luxury car in the garage!
There were regular visits to the second home near Caernarfon where Gertie was nanny to the 2 children, housekeeper and cook.
Aged about 22 Gertie left Birkenhead to move in with her sister Chrissie in Ellesmere Port.
During this time she worked in the Bowater mill making paper bags and later Geo L Scott laminations making parts for electric motors.
Whilst living with Chrissie, Harry a painter and decorator for Ellesmere Port Council came to work on the houses in the road.
He was introduced to Gertie by Chrissie and they soon started going out together. They were married in 1954 in RC Church of our Lady Star of the Sea
in Ellesmere Port. They lived in an upstairs flat in Little Sutton and Tom was born in 1955. One day she locked herself out but borrowed a ladder and managed to climb in through a window, she didn’t even ladder her stockings!
In 1957 the family moved into a new council house in Great Sutton with a back boiler for the hot water, a washing machine with mangle to wring out the clothes – all mod-cons!
Gertie went back to work as a home help firstly from a job advert and later as a Home Help for Cheshire Social Services Ellesmere Port. She looked after the elderly in their own homes doing the shopping, cleaning and providing companionship. They all wanted Gertie to visit, she was the best home help on the council!
Time went by as it does in all families, work, holidays, school etc. then in the 1980s Gertie Harry and Tom bought the council house thanks to Maggie Thatcher.
Tom left and was married in 1986. Gertie and Harry stayed in the house until 1992. Gertie took early retirement and they sold up and moved house in 1993.
Harry sadly passed away in 1999.
Gertie lived alone for the next 6 years but would stay with son Tom, who was now divorced, for weekends.
Sadly Gertie’s health deteriorated gradually over the last 8 years and Tom became her full-time carer.
Towards the end she couldn’t do any of the things she enjoyed, especially walking, baking, reading her library books, knitting, watching the soaps on tv, but she could still manage a smile.
Gertie was the gentlest, most caring and loving person you could ever wish to meet.
Family flowers only please but donations if wished to Dementia UK