CATHERINE Mahon Buckley is well used to the sound of applause for her protégés at CADA Performing Arts. But the biggest star in Catherine’s life is most definitely her mother, Patricia Mahon.
“She is a strong woman of her generation,” says Catherine.
The special bond between mother and daughter set the stage for a unique relationship.
“I don’t have a sister,” says Catherine. “Mam is my sister and my best friend. We have a special bond.”
Patricia is a role model for her daughter.
“Mam, originally from Harold’s Cross, Dublin, achieved so much inside and outside of the home. My mother was the first woman to be involved in the branch of the Labour party, the first woman to hold a union card. She was President of the ICA. Mam is a high-spirited woman.”
And she likes the lime-light too.
“Mam loved dancing,” says Catherine. “She met my dad at the City Hall Cork, where he was playing in a big band. That was that!”
Patricia lost children that might have been.
“Mam had eight pregnancies,” says Catherine. “The children she lost were never spoken about. She told nobody. Four years before dad died, a headstone was put up where the babies were buried. It gave her closure. Back then, it was a taboo subject.”
Like many mothers, Patricia has a blue-eyed boy.
“The red carpet was always rolled out for my brother, Tony,” says Catherine. “He could do no wrong. Tony is the golden boy And my husband Ted, has Mam eating out of his hand.”
Patricia went to college when she was age 64.
“She was afraid she’d fail her exams,” says Catherine. “I told her; what’s the worst that can happen? You can fail, or they can kick you out. She achieved her degree!”
Catherine is treating her mum on Mother’s Day and for her 85th birthday on March 17.
“We’ll have a house party and mam will be treated to lunch and a new outfit. Tony and his wife Elma, always make a fuss of mam too.”
This birthday is tinged with bitter-sweet memories.
“Mum was diagnosed with lung cancer three years ago,” says Catherine.
“She has rallied back to health numerous times. She also has slight dementia which saddens me to see her fade away.”
Catherine stays close to her mother.
“I am her full time carer and she is in long-term care in Marymount where she is treated like a queen. She has her own bedroom with en suite, a private garden and outings to Hayfield Manor for coffee.
“Her friend of 40 years, Ann Burton, is a regular visitor and she loves to see our dog Paris bounding in to her.
“Mam loves her style and she always likes to be turned out nicely,” says Catherine. “If she runs out of make-up or body cream, she says the nurses will notice and she doesn’t want that. That rarely happens but she reminds me all the time. Every Saturday both of us go to John Geaney’s to get our hair done. Mam loves that treat.”
Patricia was a good confidant over the years too.
“You could tell her anything. “But Mam would never tolerate a lie,” says Catherine. “We always told the truth and she always told us to do our best no matter what we wanted to do in our lives. She said; be the best at what you do. Mam gave me my work ethic.”
Patricia had a very productive life.
“Mam had a great pair of hands,” says Catherine. “She designed and made wedding dresses. Mam made her own wedding outfit and her hat. She made my wedding dress and the bridesmaids’ dresses. She had a great pair of hands.
“When I was 10 years old mam went to work at Cassidys Fabrics and she went on to a management position in retail.”
The layers of happiness between Catherine and Patricia have been laid down over the decades.
“I admire her courage and her tenacity,” says Catherine.
“She rallied after being diagnosed with lung cancer. She says the doctor doesn’t call it until God calls you.”
ALWAYS THERE FOR ME
Tracey Kennedy doesn’t have to call her mother Helen every day.
“She understands my commitments and even though I’d love to see more of her; there is no pressure,” says Tracey. “There is no guilt trip.”
Even if Tracey did call her mother every day; she mightn’t get her. Tracey smiles.
“Mam is real people’s person,” says Tracey.
“She has always been a really positive influence in my life.
“She is very involved in the local community in Killeagh and she loves the Monday Club.”
Helen has a bubbly personality.
“Mam is more out-going than me.” says Tracey.
She likes to get about and about too.
“Yes,” says Tracey, who is the first female chair of Cork County Board and she is vice-principal of Carrigaline Community School.
“Even though she’s had two knee replacements, mam has travelled all of Ireland and abroad, as well as travelling to the USA. She has been to places in the world that I’ve never been. Nothing gets in her way.”
Helen and Tracey have been in Killeagh all their lives. Even when Tracey was studying in UCC, she commuted back to her favourite spot that was home.
“I only live a mile away from mam now, and even though I don’t see her every day; I know that she is always there for me. She is always in my corner.”
And she was always on the sideline too, at matches.
“All my childhood memories are tied up with matches,” says Tracey. “Getting a spin from the neighbours and calling into Coleman’s for a 99 cone on the way home.”
Helen was always at home when Tracey and her sister, Mary, were growing up.
“She worked in the pub and she helped dad on the farm. They were hard workers and they were very happy together. They were a very close couple. It rattled Mam when he died in 2010; it took it out of her but she bounced back and she got on with things. She always enjoyed life and she makes a great effort to do that.”
Tracey remembers a happy childhood in the east Cork hamlet of Killeagh.
“Mam did farm work and she looked after the family. My sister Mary and I always
home from school to a warm kitchen and a hot dinner. I was grown-up before I ate pizza!
“Mam was always there for us. There was always time for us even with the long pub hours involved,” says Tracey.
“We were blessed with our childhood. The stability was always there. When Mam got older, she didn’t work in the pub anymore.”
Tracey has a lot of her mother’s traits too.
“Mam is an independent woman,” says Tracey. “She never interfered and she let us make our own mistakes. Mam gave us great freedom. She never told us what to do. She is a great sounding board though, and tells us when she approves.”
And when she doesn’t?
“No comment then,” says Tracey, laughing.
Tracey is her mother’s biggest fan.
“I admire her hugely,” says Tracey.
“Mam overcame her own challenges and difficulties in her life. She is a strong woman.”
Do mother and daughter, both strong women, ever clash?
“We have some disagreements,” says Tracey. “Mam is stubborn and she is always right!
“We’ve never had a serious falling out. Our relationship is good and healthy.”
Tracey doesn’t often seek her mother’s opinion often though. Tracey giggles.
“I don’t ask her opinion about a new dress,” says Tracey. “Because she’ll tell me that I look beautiful anyway!”
How will the Kennedys celebrate Mother’s Day?
“Cork will probably be playing a match on Sunday,” says Tracey.
“So we’ll go to the game. Mam loves all the games and then we’ll do lunch. She deserves a special day.”
Helen, in her late 60s, is fit and vibrant.
“She is young at heart,” says Tracey. “She absolutely feels like a teen.”
Helen is Tracey’s greatest supporter.
“She’d love to see more of me,” says Tracey. “There is never any pressure. I never have to worry about her. It is her way of supporting me.”
MY GO-TO PERSON
Lenore Good, who is expecting baby number six in June, has a good mentor.
“My mother is a huge part of my life,” says Lenore.
“I’m lucky enough to learn everything about being a parent from her.
“She is my go-to person, the first person that I will ring about anything. Her opinion and advice are very important to me.”
It was always thus.
“Looking back, I didn’t realise that she is such a good judge of character,” says Lenore, who runs the hugely popular, ‘Staying Alive With Five’ Facebook page.
“But you couldn’t have told me that when I was a teenager though!”
Lenore and Loretto are best buddies.
“Her work ethic has influenced me through the years,” say Lenore.
“She follows the beat of her own drum, being a leader, not a follower. She is very independent and headstrong. A lot of people look up to her. Mum has shown my sister, Amy, and me, the importance of family through example.”
Loretto approves of her daughter’s fashion style.
“She is behind my boho style, love of denim, anything wooden, beanbags and jewellery.”
Loretto has her daughter’s back too.
“She always has my back, regardless,” agrees Lenore.
Even though Lenore’s dad is 6 feet 4 inches tall; it was Mum that was not to be crossed; no matter what.
“There was a running joke that Mum was not to be messed with,” says Lenore.
“Yes, I could confide in her about anything, but I was very apprehensive about telling her some things.
“Her opinion was important to me and there was often a fear of her reaction.”
How did Loretto react when Lenore came home with a tattoo at the age of 17?
“She went off and got a tattoo herself!”
Loretto likes the nice things in life.
“She enjoys travelling with my dad, taking the grandchildren out for pancakes or on cinema dates. She loves catching up with me and my sister, Amy. Like us girls she likes a bit of retail therapy or a quirky home improvement show.”
Loretto cemented lovely memories in the footprint of her daughters’ lives.
“She tells us stories about being the youngest of seven children. Mam is very family-orientated,” says Lenore.
“I try and replicate the meals she made for us that remind me of being small. I remember being allowed to have a bowl of rice-crispies in front of the telly on Saturday morning watching cartoons; the excitement of being allowed a sleepover in your cousin’s house.
“We loved playing on the street with our friends, and going to Maureen’s shop for a bag of sweets after mass. We have fond memories of growing up in Blackpool and the get-togethers in Nan’s house.”
Loretto brought her family back on her same journeys.
“As children, we went to Graball Bay where Mam spent summers as a child herself. We headed off into the sun with a packed lunch and we went to the Merries by night. Our uncle would press a fiver in to our hands for chips and another ride on the Merries.”
Loreto made her children proud of their Cork roots.
“The inside droll jokes were all about being a Norrie and proud of where you come from,” say Lenore.
“I don’t think it is until you have children yourself that you realise the importance of all these little things and how they all come together and in turn make up who you are as a parent yourself.”
Loretto always worked hard.
“My mother has been working full-time since she was 16 years old,” say Lenore. “She is very entrepreneurial, having her own business most of the years I was growing up. She is smart with money and she always made sure that we had the best of everything and never went without.”
Loretto passed on important life-skills to her daughters.
“Luckily I was given some responsibility as a teenager and I learned to cook as a teenager,” says Lenore.
“I knew how to cook and clean and I had three part time jobs when I was 16. Mum taught us how to manage our money and she encouraged us to travel. We all went to New Zealand which was a massive experience, and one we can treasure forever.”
Now Loretto has more children to love.
“I don’t think mum ever envisaged having seven grandchildren between my sister and I, soon to be eight!” says Lenore.
“As a grandparent you don’t get bogged down on the details like parents sometimes do, and you can hand the children back at the end of the day.”
How will the ladies celebrate Mother’s Day?
“Mum is a hard woman to pin down,” says Lenore, with a smile. “She is so busy with her work as a therapist, running courses. Hopefully we’ll do something when she is off. If I’m feeling energetic, I might cook her favourite dinner.”
There could be other plans.
“I’m secretly hoping my gang will cook my dinner after they clean the house first, of course!”