Eulogy

My mother, known as Mamette to her grandchildren, lived her life to the full. Her scholarship on French literature and art history and her love of France were a large part of her life. But only part. Actually, she did not set foot in France until 1953 at the age of 18. Her mother had planned for her to go to boarding school in France, but the war made that impossible, and so she instead went to an Irish boarding school in Ring. She went on to study Irish and French at Trinity, and was fully trilingual. Music was another large part of her life, and she did a degree in Law. She could have excelled in any of four directions: Irish, French, Music or Law. She told me that she loved the intellectual stimulation of the professional degree in law. She thought hard of being a professional pianist, and indeed a large part of her life was in Music. She was on the Board of Governors of the Royal Irish Academy of Music for nearly forty years. But in the end most of her professional career was on French literature and art, as Roger has described.
          Mamette had incredible stamina. There are night owls and there are larks. Then there are those who just hardly sleep, like Mamette. She was an energetic perfectionist. She had no time for superficial nonsense, or codswallop, as she liked to call it. But she was nurturing to her family and to all those around her. Generations of assistants in the French department would come to Dublin, sometimes lost in a foreign land, and would all be taken under her wing. And she was not all work and no play. She liked to play charades, and I have many happy memories from family holidays with her. She was an inspiration to all who knew her. We will miss her dry sense of humour.
          We got the devastating news of her illness in May. She had three brain tumors, and it is very rare to have so many. Her bravery and directness in dealing with this disease were stunning, but characteristic, and her sense of humour remained with her to the end. The knowledge that her time was limited spurred her to work harder than ever on finishing her last book, on the travels of Edouard de Tocqueville in the early 19th century, a unique non-English perspective on Scotland and Ireland at the time. With the help of Roger Little and many other friends and colleagues it will be published by Champion next year. It is the great joy and privilege of an academic that your job and life are one and the same thing, and Mamette was indeed an academic. She was thrilled to be named a chevalier of the légion d’honneur earlier this year.
          Mamette believed in the importance of education and made that a priority for me and for her step children, David, Peter and Jane. The importance of immersion in a foreign language at an early age is almost a family ideology, going back to when Mamette’s mother was sent to boarding school in Belgium.
          Mamette saw her legacy as being her grandchildren. As she liked to point out, her mother was born in the 19th century, and her grandchildren have every chance of living to the 22nd century. She was constantly planning for the education of her grandchildren, especially in Music and in French. Her last book is dedicated to Max and Lexi, étonnants voyageurs. They were both very close to their grandmother. Lexi, her granddaughter looks like Mamette, and has the same determination and strength of character. And Max, her grandson, wrote her a card last summer that is more eloquent than anything that I can say. It reads:

Queen Mamette, Thank you for being you.
Things won’t go so smoothly without you.
We will miss you.
We wish you were immortal.
Love, Max.


Jonathan Wright


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