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  A Suitable Slán to Nurse Margaret after 32 years of service on Cape Clear

Cape Clear Island bids ‘Go raibh míle maith agat ‘ to Nurse Margaret Ó Driscoll.

32 years ago a youthful Nurse Margaret Cormican landed on Cape Clear Island. On Sunday 4 May  last the now Nurse Margaret O’Driscoll was  given a rousing thank you by the wider Island community as she retires after 32 years dedicated service as the Public Health Nurse on the Island.

The celebration started at the Island Mass where Fr Peter Quelly finished the service with a fitting tribute to Margaret, recalling not only her skill and professionalism but also her friendship, and set the tone for the day to follow.

The main Community event took place in Club Cléire from 2pm onwards with a sumptuous spread and reception coordinated by the Comharchumann but contributed to with familiar generosity by many thankful member s of the Community. The Island musicians were also in full flight and the day soon mellowed into an afternoon of music, song, refreshments and reminiscences of days gone by, of events and characters that Margaret encountered during her long sojourn on the Cape.

There were so many personages lined up to pay her fulsome tributes that it was hard to keep up at times. First of all Mairtín Ó Mealóid, Manager of the Comharchumann expressed a ‘mile buíochas’ and presented her with a ‘voucher’ that he hoped would bring her ‘far away’for a much deserved break. Niamh Ní Drisceoil, Cathaoirleach of the Comharchumann then spoke describing it as a ‘very special day for a very special person’ and bid her a happy and long retirement and that even though she would no longer be “our nurse, she would still be our neighbour”. Eileen Weadick then presented her with a  lovingly crafted ‘memory book’  which amongst the photos of days gone by included some recalling Margaret’s courtship days with fisherman and now ferryman  Martin Ó Driscoll. Former skipper Ted O’Driscoll recalled her arrival on the Island and the late Concubar Ó Drisceoil explaining the intricacies of island cars and petrel drums after which Margaret must have thought “Where in the name of God am I going”. With some emotion he recalled that he himself “would not be here today except for Margaret”  and thanked her for being available day and night and working closely not only with the Island ferry service but also Baltimore Lifeboat and the Health Board. Eileen Leonard representing the Active Retirement Group followed with another presentation after which Dr Don Creagh spoke about her long service and if her replacement is to be “half as interested in Cape Clear as she has been the Island will be continue to be well served”. She was also thanked by relief nurse Siobhan Purcell with reference to the other relief nurses also.

Margaret herself then spoke a little about her years of service and thanked all her colleagues including all at Skibbereen Medical Centre, South Doc, various relief nurses, Baltimore Life Boat and most especially the island ferrymen without whom she could not have done her job. She also recalled the culture shock of her first night on the Island, with the local postmaster ringing on the black phone at 9am to say he was going off duty and the Skibereen operator coming on at 10am and thus becoming the only contact between the Island and the mainland until the following morning. Clearly there was no ‘induction process’ in those days because Margaret was on duty from the moment she stepped foot on the Island and at 10.30pm or thereabouts was visited by former Manager Fergal Mac Amhlaoibh and his heavily pregnant wife Áine to inform her that Áine was in labour. She recalled saying something like “ you have left it a bit late, havn’t you” to which they said they were only joking, and had just come to welcome her to the Island. She spoke movingly of the ‘lovely people that she met on the Island over the years, of those that sadly died before their time for various reasons, of her parents in law who were so welcoming to her and of the great range and variety of nursing roles undertaken by her over the years, “quite diversified for primary care”. She also especially thanked the ‘discrete and kind people’ whom she called upon many times over the years to assist in tasks that she alone could not perform and how important it is to respect the privacy and dignity of those who are sick and therefore at their most vulnerable. She was happy to live in such a fantastic community with a great standard of life and would like to see more families take advantage of its benefits. She thanked all who contributed to the event and looked forward to ‘coming and going’ regularly in the future.

It was a lovely day with some talented singers entertaining the assembly as the time came for the 6pm departure of the ferry for the mainland. Meanwhile the younger Island children took advantage of the fine day to  play their familiar game of ‘building dams’ on the beach right outside the Club. This is a wonderful cooperative venture enjoyed equally by both boys and girls, building elaborate dams in the sand against the rising tide to be eventually destroyed by the advancing waves. With great glee the crashing waves eventually descend on the children and at 7pm or thereabouts high tide brought an end to their antics and as the wet but happy children were brought home to warm baths and showers, so too went their parents and the community celebration came to a natural and happy conclusion.

For some members of her extended family, the celebrations continued for some time longer and the day will be remembered with fondness for a long time to come.

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