Mary Joe Carty (née O'Toole) was 21 years old when she moved to Meath with her parents and siblings, under the Land Commission migration scheme, in 1951. She was born in 1930 and grew up in Conagher, a small townland in County Galway on the border with Mayo.
Mary Joe always claimed both heritages: "The house was in Galway but we went to mass, to school, to the shops and to the pub in Mayo". Her attachment to those counties was very obvious when either one of them was playing against Meath in GAA matches; we never needed to ask which side she was on. When, on the rare occasion, the match was between Mayo and Galway she found herself in a win-win situation.
In 1951, upon arrival in Waynestown in the parish of Kilcloon, Co. Meath, Mary Joe was spotted by her next door neighbour, Harry Carty, whose family had also just recently migrated from Shraigh, near Belmullet on Mayo's Atlantic coast.
Within a few years they were married and started what was to become a very large family of ten children, of which I am one.
We grew up on a small farm in the sixties and seventies where the Beatles were rarely heard and long hair deeply frowned upon, "You can't tell the men from the women nowadays". Most of our neighbours were farmers too and most hailed from the Wesht. We were a generation that lived with parents and grandparents who spoke with strong Mayo and Galway accents though living only a short few miles from Dublin city. Place names like Ballindine, Claremorris, Ballyhaunis, Belmullet, Ballina, Castlebar, Erris were far more familiar to our childish ears than Navan, Trim, Kells, Athboy.
Mary Joe left the Wesht but the Wesht never fully left her. From her stuffing, soup and brown bread recipes, to her fascinating way of celebrating Halloween, to having Santy arrive on Christmas Eve, all her traditions (and now ours) were brought directly from the Wesht.
She had peculiar vocabulary too: some were Gaelicisms, some from her native Wesht and some just plain self-invented (the spellings are mine): a buddah (pompous); putog (spoiled child); bowdies (head lice); Amàdan (idiot); Lord Oran More (a reference to some high born person from her part of the world and used to reprimand signs of pretentiousness or fussiness).
There were some cryptic, incomprehensible ones too - though we always understood them perfectly-: By troth; It's woe betide ye; Don't start your Andra Martins; The Dickens Hize ye; He's as wise as Paddy the thimbles, She'll make kittle binders of it…
Mary Joe was of the generation that unquestioningly went to mass every Sunday and observed all the Catholic rituals; she saw to it that her large brood did likewise for as long as she was able to exercise that kind of authority. Yet towards the end of her life she yielded gracefully to the new norms of the younger generations.
Mary Joe was not a boat-rocker but she was nevertheless a strong woman who defended her views and principles. She suffered the very sad loss of her fourth son Jarlath in 1994 and then of her beloved Harry in 2000, yet she continued to protect her family by never allowing her own sadness to cause distress to us.
She was proud of her children's and grandchildren's achievements and liked to hear of football and hurling victories by the Blackhall Gaels where they figure prominently. Her idyllic marriage, her gentle-assertive ways, her earthy intelligence and her unconditional love for her children and grandchildren have left us with the impossibility of repaying that debt and we all possess a tremendous gratitude.
When she died on January 6th 2013 Mary Joe departed leaving us without a single reproach, and I know we are much better people for having had her as a mother. We have been given an invaluable legacy.
Padraig A. Carty, on behalf of the Carty clan.