Mary Stanford, affectionately known as Mally, was fondly remembered by members of the Rathmullan community as a sea of vivid yellow balloons floated above the skies of Rathmullan in her honour.
Alma Curran, the principal of St. Joseph’s National School, explained to Donegal Woman that Mally was the backbone of the community, and that the town is in shock following her sudden passing.
Alma said that as she loved polka dots and yellow was her favourite colour, it felt fitting to release bright yellow balloons from the playground she fought so hard to secure.
“It was a poignant moment but very much deserved for a great lady, she’s irreplaceable in our community.
“As her remains were removed from her home the children released the balloons and they floated up over Inch going towards Portnamurray,” Alma said.
“She was very much the go-getter of the town. Mally was responsible for pushing for the playground. During meetings with the Council she asked how much it would cost to build a state-of-the-art playground as opposed to a normal playground, and they said it would be an extra €40,000.”
Following the Council meeting, Mally injected €40,000 of her own personal savings to secure the state-of-the-art playground.
A few years on, Mally was at the helm of building an all-inclusive second part of the playground which caters for children with disabilities and special needs, with the help of fundraising and Council funds. The incredible playground now overlooks the bay for future generations to enjoy.
“When the sun is shining we always say how it was Mally who had the vision to put this wonderful playground in situ for the children of the community. It was her lifetime ambition to put in that playground, and she has left that to Rathmullan. Her grace and generosity held no bounds.
“Each morning Mally would be found unlocking the gate of the playground and every night she carried out the same routine locking it up again. Between herself and her great friends Roasleen Black and Posey Kelly, they were the gatekeepers of that playground and always were dedicated to ensuring the playground remained safe and clean for all the town.
“In the future it would be nice to see the playground renamed in her memory as locally it’s always been known as Mally’s playground.
“Mally used to volunteer at St. Joseph’s National School doing literacy lessons with the kids for several years. It broke her heart when she had to leave due to health reasons, but the children in Rathmullan all knew and loved Mally.
Enthusiastic about community events, a jovial Mally knew how to brighten everyone’s day.
“Mally embraced everything that was going on in the community and was not afraid to put her neck out for anyone. Everyone – her family and friends, will miss her so much. She had real wit and a really good sense of humour, she was always in good spirits.
“The children loved her. She’ll be so missed in the community and her likes will never be again.
“Whatever the time of year Mally’s house would be aptly dressed and decorated. During Easter she’d have Easter Eggs hanging from the trees, during Christmas she’d have the whole street lit up, and during Halloween she would have a witch looking out the window!
“When we’d be fundraising for the Christmas lights she dressed up as a snowman, and during the summer Regatta and Festival, she loved getting involved. She also dressed up as a historic countess and lady for parades and was an avid member of the History Society. She called the bingo each and every Wednesday and Thursday in the SVP Oznam centre, followed by retail therapy and library visits in Milford with her great neighbour Mary Mc Ateer.”
Mally lived in Rathmullan for her whole life, except for when she lived in Luton, where she met her beloved husband Bob.
“She always wanted to return to Rathmullan and didn’t move too far from home, moving into a beautiful house right next door to her home house to no 3 Coastguard station. There, Mally and Bob created a beautiful home for themselves.”
Although Mally has passed on, her memory will always bring a smile to the faces of everyone who knew her.
“Just last week she was involved in the commemoration of the Flight of the Earls, she was out in good spirits.
“She never once put herself first, that was just Mally.”
Vibrant Mally, who was laid to rest today, asked that everyone wear bright colours to her funeral.
“At the funeral today someone remarked that Mally would give you the shirt off her own back, and if it was to benefit the town she’d take the shirt off your back. It’s a very apt observation of her continual drive and commitment of Mally to her home village.
“She was a real humanitarian, she never ceased to amaze with her drive and passion to get things done.”
When asked if she knew how Mally got her nickname, Alma said she didn’t know – however knowing so many Marys in this world, she guessed there’s only one Mally.
Mally is survived by her sisters, Frances, Rita, Christina, and her brother Denis, as well as a wide circle of nieces, nephews, family and friends.
Ar Dheis De go raibh a hanam.