Mary Bridget Tinneny was the first child of James Tinneny and Margaret Kenna.
She was born at home in the town of Clones in County Monaghan, Ireland on
September 15, 1922. While growing up Mary and the rest of the family moved
around a good deal since her father worked for the railroad. As a young
girl she remembers that she stayed for a time at the home of her
grandparents Tommy Tinneny and Bridget Gilmartin Tinneny on Holborn Hill in
Belturbet. It was after her father was reassigned from Clones to
Enniskillen in 1928 that Mary's mother and the children returned to
Belturbet while the family waited for a house to become available in
Enniskillen. During this time her mother lived with and cared for her
father, Mary's grandfather Kenna, and at night Mary slept around the corner
in the home of her grandfather Tommy Tinneny.
During this time when she lived in Belturbet Mary had several strong
memories. One of these was of waking up one night and seeing Jack Mee's pub
burning. She remembered standing in front of her grandfather Tommy's house
in the middle of the night watching the great fire with many other people.
She was very afraid and began to cry when of the Larkin girls (a cousin),
picked Mary up and took her to her house where she felt safe. The pub
burned to the ground and was later replaced by Kennedy's Garage.
Mary also remembered her grandfather Tommy taking her for walks in the
town. The pair was always accompanied by her grandfather's dog which was a
tan and white mongrel. Sometime Mary would go down to the banks of the
River Erne where it runs through the town and play. This was off limits to
her and to the other young children because of the dangers presented by the
swiftly flowing river. When she strayed to the river, her grandfather Tommy
frequently caught her. The signal that she had been caught was the sound of
her grandfather's dog barking as it came around the corner followed by
Tommy. Mary began her education (infants school) at the Convent School in
Easter of 1928 Mary joined her parents in Enniskillen. Her mother had gone
ahead and set up their new house during which time Mary remained with her
grandparents Tommy and Bridget in Belturbet. She attended primary school at
the convent school managed by the Sisters of Mercy in Enniskillen. Growing
up she recalled that her mother wouldn't let her participate in Irish
dancing. When the family left Enniskillen in 1931, and moved to Strabane,
she attended the convent school there until she was about 15 years old at
which time she left school.
When she was 17 years old Mary got a job as a bookkeeper in a grocery shop
in Strabane. She worked there for about three and one half years. She and
several of the girls that she worked with frequently talked about going to
England to live and work. The other girls went and found work for a firm in
Redditch, Worchestershire, England. When Mary was 21 she went to England
but found that there was no job for her where her friends worked in
Mary found employment at a place called Terry's, which made lamps and
springs for the military. She first worked on production in the factory
then moved on to the staff as the store's clerk in the wage office.
She lived in England from 1943 until 1949. She remembered watching the
bombing of Birmingham by the Germans during the War. Mary returned to
Strabane and rested for about six months. She was contacted by the manager
of Terry's to see if she would return to England and work for them again.
Mary got a job working in a shirt factory in Derry. The factory made shirts
for the well known Mark's and Spencer line and for a California company.
Mary met her future husband Patrick O'Kane at an office birthday party for
one of the girls that also worked at the factory. Mary recalled the party
was on August 11th, which is highly celebrated by the Orangemen (Protestant
unionists) in Northern Ireland with the “closing of the gates”. During this
annual event, the Orangemen locked themselves inside the gates of the old
walled City of Derry.
Mary's father in law, Roger O’Kane, was the factory manager and he had
designed a shirt called the reversible, which had two sets of buttonholes
and was able to be worn reversible. The British Army, Navy and Air Force
wore the reversible shirt that he designed.
Mary was just over 30 years old when she married Patrick at Saint Mary's
Catholic Church in Malmount on September 24, 1952. Mary and Patrick set up
house in an apartment on Marlborough Street in Derry. Mary recalls that
Patrick was a good singer and had been formally trained as a first tenor in
his younger years.
1957 they moved to a nice 2-bed room house in the Creggan Estate. Their
next home was in Malin Gardens. Mary and Patrick had six children Margaret
"Majella", Patrick, Mary "Mora", Roger, Anne "Betty", Thomas "Brian". The
children were raised in Derry and Limavady, Northern Ireland.
Mary remembered the Orangemen celebrating on August 11th by walking along
the top of the walls around Bogside, a Catholic compound in Derry, and
throwing pennies into the compound at the Catholics. She said in return the
Catholics took the pennies and bought bap, which is a type of bread roll,
and threw them at the Orangemen up on the wall.
1962 Pat left the shirt factory, where he had worked from the time he was 16
years old, and worked for a series of companies including Wolf Paints out of
Derry, the British Oxygen Company and finally for the German firm Heogst.
He worked in construction and in setting up the various factory machines.
June 7, 1970 Mary, Patrick and their children moved from Malin Gardens to
Limavady. While their girls were growing up their father put his tailoring
skills to work by cutting out the materiel for the girls clothing while Mary
sewed the material into blouses, skirts dresses and coats.
1986 Patrick had been operated on for a bowel problem. Although Mary and
the family did not know it, the surgeon had removed a cancerous growth. In
the spring of 1989 the cancer was back in full force and Patrick entered the
hospital for what was to be a nine-week stay. He died of cancer at 5 p.m.
on April 29, 1989. He is buried in Saint Mary's Cemetery in Limavady. Mary
continued to live in the family home until the end of 1992, at which time
she moved to 41 Greystone Road, Limavady.
Mary was the first Tinneny in Ireland with whom I made contact. In 1991,
after many years of searching, I learned that there were Tinnenys in Ireland
through Douglas Holt, a local British businessman in Columbia, South
Carolina. I had casually