‘The greatest Irish mother in the history of motherhood’: You need to hear Marty Morrissey’s gorgeous tribute to his late mum
This Mother's Day, we wanted to revisit Marty Morrissey's poignant tribute to his mother. It's a magnificent testament to just how big a role she played in his life.
Losing a friend or family member is never easy and December 2021 was heartbreaking for Marty Morrissey and the wider Clare community, who were united in their grief at the passing of the family matriarch, Peggy.
A “5ft 4in force of nature” according to her doting son, Peggy died in mid-December when the car she was driving crashed near Annagh at Miltown Malbay. Marty’s only remaining parent – his father died on December 19, 2004 – he had a very close bond with his mother and was understandably shocked by the news. Admitting that the following days had been “the worst of [his] life”, the RTÉ broadcaster gave a very moving eulogy as she was laid to rest… and you’ll be lucky to make it to the end without crying.
Introducing her as “the greatest Irish mother in the history of motherhood”, Morrissey said that it was his honour to be her only son and child. A proud North Cork woman who “thrived on conversation and craic and banter”, the list of adjectives he used to describe her speaks to the type of person she was. “She was loyal, determined, witty, funny, deeply religious, a daily mass goer, so loving, a fabulous wife and adoring mother,” as Marty put it. She was also “argumentative, stubborn, fiercely independent, intensely confident and, to be honest, really annoying on occasion.”
Joking that she would be “so excited to see the five priests and the bishops who turned out for her funeral”, Marty also spoke of his mother’s devout faith, and later how she was often the one in charge of dealing with rowdy customers at his father’s pub. “In the pub, she was known as Mrs Morrissey, and if someone misbehaved, my father was way too soft. So it was left to Peggy to jump into action. For my mother, there was no yellow card, no black card or sin bin, it was always a straight red.”
Coming up on the 17th anniversary of his father’s death, Marty knew that his mother was often lonely without him. “Next Saturday, my dad will be dead 17 years. Peggy lived alone along the wild Atlantic Way. She was lonely, she was heartbroken at times. She rang me every morning, or I her, at 10 o’clock. Then again at lunchtime, after 4 pm, and when the Six One news was over. Then at 10 pm and again when she was in bed. My mother was no ordinary woman,” he continued softly, visibly emotional at this point. “How am I going to survive without her?”
As is often the case when tragedy strikes, Marty confessed that he’s been looking for a sign to tell him that his mum is alright… and she made sure he knew that she was. “Yesterday, after bringing mom to church here and Fr Donoghue started praying, something unusual happened,” he said to those gathered in the church.
“A beautiful butterfly flew around the altar and over her coffin, only to be joined a few moments later by a second butterfly, and they flew together over the short aisle over the seat where she always sat in this church. I have to ask, what are two butterflies doing in a church in Mullagh in December? Maybe I’m losing it, but I want to take it as a sign that my mom and dad are together again, and they are happy.”
“What were the chances an only child from west Clare would meet and fall in love with an only child from north Cork and have an only child? No aunts, uncles, or first cousins. Where once there [were] three of us, sadly now there are one.”
However, he was certainly not alone in his grief as friends and neighbours rallied around him in the wake of his mother’s loss. Describing her as “a ball of energy” and “a lady you could not keep down”, former chairman of Kilmurry Ibrickane GAA club had nothing but good things to say of Peggy, confirming what we already suspected and telling The Irish Times that she was “held in very high esteem in this community”.
“Peggy was everyone’s friend – she had a great capability of communicating with young and old. Marty was her superstar,” he continued. “[It’s] as simple as that. She doted out of Marty and he doted out of her. They had a lovely relationship. Peggy had a total loyalty to Marty and he to her.”
Finishing by addressing his late mother directly, Marty assured her that he feels very lucky, even in spite of his heartbreak. “I have three families and by God did they love me this week,” he told her. “My friends here in this parish are my brothers and sisters who have responded so magnificently to my greatest tragedy of losing you last Monday night. I’m lucky, mam and dad, you brought me home to this parish when I was 10. This is where I belong, this is home.”
Later thanking his colleagues at RTÉ, Morrissey said that he will “cherish” their love and support for the rest of his life. His third family is the GAA. They too made their love known and many members from across the country reached out to him to convey their condolences – none of which goes unnoticed.
“Mom, I adored the ground you walked on. My life revolved around you and I would do it all again if I could,” Marty finished. “We were a team; the most formidable mother and son team in the world. I have to let you go now, mom. Go to dad and tell him I loved him too. You lived life to the full. There is no doubt, Peggy Morrissey, you did it your way. Mum, thank you for giving me the strength to do this. I love you.”