Joan Baily! 1919-2007.
(photo (c) pat kiely 2007)
My first encounter with Joan Baily was about 6 years ago, after she rang me to discuss a story I had written in the Dungarvan Observer and asked me if I would be interested in calling to see her.
As we chatted during that first meeting in her home in Dungarvan, Joan produced photo albums and old newspaper clippings about her life, and her achievements and it soon became obvious that I could not capture all of Joan's story on just one visit.
At the time, Joan had a home help come to visit regularly and do general housekeeping etc.but otherwise she was a very independent lady.
Over the next couple of months I got to know Joan very well, and as we trundled through different aspects of her life,the thing that struck me, was her passion for life,and her interest, not only in the town of Dungarvan, but in Ireland as a whole.
As time went by,popping down to see Joan in her residence, just a few hundred yards from St. Mary's church,every couple of weeks or so, became something I looked forward too.
We chatted about many things,her roots in Old Parish, her parents, her childhood,her beloved late husband, Jim,who was later to become a Garda Superintendent, and how the first time she met him, she was helping in her mother's shop.
Her views on politics,her membership of the ICA (Irish Country Woman's Organisation, and RG. DATA,(A retailers organisation)the local sailing club and her achievements as President of the Soroptomists,where other things we discussed.
Her involvement in the setting up of the first Dungarvan Museum and the first tourist office in Dungarvan in 1963, when professional Irish tourist management was still in its infancy.
How with her friend Kathleen Dowling,she led a campaign for the repeal of the old 1822 chattel law of Criminal conversion, which had allowed Irish women to be treated as mere chattels of their husband,with no property rights or legal rights of their own.
The chattel law was originally instigated in England in 1822 and repealed in 1857, but still remained in force in Ireland until, thanks to the efforts of Joan and her friend, it was repealed in 1971.
Today when we hear criticism of women's rights in Islamic countries, we forget just how suppressed in law, married Irish women once were here too.
Joan loved, and was very proud of Dungarvan and its history,she seemed to know everyone and anyone in the town;
Where they came from,how they rose through the social ranks and climbed the ladder of success or sometimes didn't, as the case may be.
She felt compassion for the poor of the town,and the abandoned wives with large families, sometimes left destitute in the 40s and 50s,when their husbands took off for England one fine summers day and never came back.
In her later years, before her move to the Killure Nursing home 2 years ago, Joan would sometimes be seen slowly making her way down Mary Street to Matt Connolly's Pharmacy or to Lawler's Hotel for afternoon tea,and even though in her 80s, was still an active participant in various committees in the town.
One of the last occasions I met Joan, was in 2002, at the launch of Tom Keith's excellent book called 'In Living Memory,' about Dungarvan people, which contained a story I had written about Joan herself.
She was delighted to see her story in print and after the book launch, we chatted in the company of another well known town figure,Mae Higgins( 'Dungarvan My Home Town.')
When Joan was still quite young, her mother's ill health meant she had to come home from college in Dublin to help in the families busy grocery shop,which she did for the next 30 years, until it was sold in 1971.
Perhaps,If Joan Baily had been able to go to university as she had originally intended too, she might have had the opportunity to enter the political arena,and considering all the pressure she later put on various politicians both local and national during her life,she would have been well suited to it!
May she rest in Peace!
All pics videos text etc,(c): pat kiely 2007,
unless otherwise stated:
LISMORE, Co. Waterford