By Charlie Keegan
CO Carlow lost one of its most senior citizens with the peaceful passing on Friday 17 February of Margaret Brennan, Clochristic, Milford and formerly of Newtown, Nurney. Ciss, as she was affectionately known, was in her 103rd year.
Ciss died at the home of her daughter Phyllis Delaney in Clochristic, surrounded by her loving family. She will be remembered as a dearly-loved mother, sister, grandmother, great-grandmother, neighbour and friend to many, a woman who enjoyed her long life to the fullest.
Born Margaret Deane on 20 October 1920 in Killballyhue, Kellistown, Carlow, she was the daughter of John and Margaret Deane. Her mother was Margaret Hearn, a native of Co Waterford.
Educated at Tinryland National School, she would repeatedly relate many happy stories of the early years of her life.
One of a family of seven, Ciss outlived her six siblings – Mary Lynch, Jack Deane, Jim Deane, Michael Deane, Paddy Deane and Hannah Nolan. Ciss suffered bereavement in early childhood with the death of her mother when she was only nine years’ old and shortly afterwards her 16-year-old brother Jack passed away.
In her mid-teens, Ciss travelled to Dublin, working with her aunt Bride in a local convenience store and boarding house in the heart of the city. She often spoke of her happy times “in the big smoke” and cherished the memories and friends she made in the capital.
After her time in Dublin, she returned to Kilballyhue to live with her father John Deane, a man whom she greatly loved and admired.
Ciss played with the Tinryland camogie team and it was while playing a camogie match in Nurney that she met her future husband Pakie Brennan. Ciss’s father died in February 1951 and she married Pakie Brennan on 17 June 1953. The couple had five children – two boys Pat and Joe, and three daughters Phyllis Delaney, Mary Kennedy and Jenny Butler.
Ciss was the proud grandmother of 11 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren, all of whom she loved dearly, greatly enjoying when the younger generations of her family came to visit.
Sorrow came with the death of Pakie on 22 December 1988 at the age of 68. Further great losses were to follow four years later with the passing of her two grandsons to metachromatic leukodystrophy (MLD). Seven-year-old Tommy Brennan died from the rare condition on 7 June 1992, and 12 weeks later his younger brother John (6) died on 12 September.
Ciss had moved in with her daughter Phyllis and son-in-law Liam Delaney over 30 years ago.
She enjoyed nothing more than to entertain, and nobody went home without the cuppa. Her reputation for being the life and soul of a party was evident from her passion for music and poetry. Ciss would often be heard reciting a rhyme or two, or humming along to country music by Daniel O’Donnell, Derek Ryan or some other country music star.
When Ciss hit the big 90, a lavish party was held for her by family, neighbours and friends. But when she celebrated her 100th birthday on 20 October 2020, her great-age milestone was celebrated in rather muted circumstances, as the country was in the grip of the coronavirus pandemic. Ciss contracted Covid in her 100th year and there were great fears for her at that time, but she came through the pandemic like the trooper that she was.
At the time of her mother’s centenary, daughter Phyllis Delaney said: “Mam has always been a caring, protective and loving mother. Myself and my brother and sisters had a wonderful childhood, thanks to her.”
In the latter years of her life, Ciss’s mobility understandably slowed, but she continued to have a great interest in family, friends and life in general up to her final days.
Ciss was noted for her positivity and caring spirit, as a lady who did not allow life’s anxieties to leave their mark on how she lived.
Ciss reposed at her daughter’s home in Clochristic on Saturday afternoon and evening, with Fr Tom Lalor, Tinryland, leading the concluding prayers.
On Sunday morning, Bishop Denis Nulty called to the Delaney home and prayed with Ciss’s family, while Fr Tom Little, PP, Askea-Bennekerry-Tinryland, led the prayers that evening.
Her remains were removed to St Patrick’s Church, Newtown on Monday afternoon, where Fr Lalor was the chief celebrant of the funeral Mass for Ciss Brennan, assisted by Fr Little, Fr Declan Foley, PP, Bagenalstown and Fr Gerry Byrne, Leighlinbridge.
Significant symbols of Ciss’s life were brought forward at the start of Mass, narrated by daughter-in-law Josie Brennan.
Caitlin (granddaughter) brought up a basket of fresh spring flowers, symbolic of Ciss’s great love of gardening; grandson Mark Brennan presented a family photo, reflecting Ciss’s deep love of family; PJ Delaney (grandson) brought forward a hurley, remembering her camogie days with Tinryland; Barry Brennan (grandson) presented a Holy Communion pyx – the instrument in which he brought Communion to Ciss at home every Sunday; Seán Byrne (great-grandson) brought up a copy of Ciss’s favourite poem; and finally, Ciss’s iPad, a lifeline to her in playing her favourite songs and music, was brought forward by grandson Thomas Butler.
Readings at Mass were by William Delaney (grandson) and Mary Jo Brennan (daughter-in-law). Prayers of the Faithful were recited by Jack Dempsey (great-grandson), Sinead Byrne (granddaughter), Ned Deane (nephew), Patrick Brennan (grandson) and Liam Nolan (grandnephew). Daughters Phyllis Delaney and Jenny Butler brought forward the Offertory gifts.
In a eulogy to his mother, Pat Brennan spoke of the many loving qualities of his mother. Commenting that if he could choose his own mother, he would pick Ciss time and time again for her heartfelt warmness and beautiful approach to life, love and family.
The lovely singing of hymns at Mass was by the Newtown church choir, with vocalists Barry Brennan, Bernard Hennessy, James Brennan, Siobhan O’Toole and Eilis Eagers and organist Majella Swan.
Following Mass, Ciss was laid to rest with her husband Pakie in the adjoining cemetery, with Fr Little saying the final prayers at the graveside. Her grandnephew Brian Deane played a hornpipe, ***The boys of blue hill***.
Ciss is survived by her children Phyllis Delaney (Clochristic, Milford), Pat Brennan (Newtown, Nurney), Mary Kennedy (Ardnahue, Bennekerry, Carlow), Joe Brennan (Augha, Bagenalstown) and Jenny Butler (Raheenwood, Fenagh), by her cherished grandchildren Patrick, Thomas, Rosie, Sinéad, Laura, Bobby, James, William, Barry, PJ and Mark, great-grandchildren Caitlin, Seán, Jack, Ollie, Aoife and Andy, daughters-in-law Josie and Mary Jo, sons-in-law Andy, Pat and Liam, by nieces, nephews, extended family, kind neighbours and her many friends.