A century before her birth John Mitchel had been minister in the church in which she was baptised. Mitchel’s son was John Mitchel, the republican leader of the 1848 Young Ireland movement. Two centuries later, it is difficult to imagine such Presbyterian political radicalism. The Unitarian tradition which Mitchel’s church espoused embraced ideals of equality and human dignity. Peggy was imbued with such ideals, dissenting from the hierarchical attitudes of the Roman Catholic Church and the strident Orangeism that characterised so many of the Protestant churches.
Peggy’s Ireland stretched from the majestic cliffs and sweeping shorelines of the north of Ulster to the misty, mystery of the coast of Kerry. It was the drumlin landscape of her home county and the green valleys of the Tipperary, it was the ruggedness of the west coast and the gentleness of the east.
Peggy’s Ireland was one of memories and stories. It was an Ireland of tales passed through generations. It was an Ireland of traditions and reminiscences and a connection with the land and with the past. It was an Ireland where the landscape was part of the people.
Peggy had been born in a single Ireland and regarded the border as an opportunity for profiteering politicians in Dublin and for demagoguery in Belfast. A supporter of the Northern Ireland Labour Party in the years of its existence, Peggy became a pragmatic unionist; a voter for the Alliance Party, in the hope that a new Ireland would one day emerge.
Baptised as a Unitarian, Peggy was required to be re-baptised to become a member of the Church of Ireland. Peggy would joke that the Unitarians believed in “one God and no devil.” Peggy loved the liturgy and the language of the Book of Common Prayer, the dignity of the Church of Ireland services. Peggy knew her theology, being uneasy with the Calvinism embraced by many of the clergy she encountered.
The latitude of the tradition in which she had grown up allowed Peggy to comprehend radical social change much more readily than many who were younger than her. Peggy was an ecumenist because she respected the beliefs of all whom she met. Peggy opposed prejudice because of her deep regard for human dignity. While the Church of Ireland still remains intolerant, Peggy accepted people regardless of their sexuality.
Peggy’s home was a place of hospitality, a place of warmth, a place which encapsulated Ireland of the welcomes.
Peggy was born on 1st April 1920. Peggy would be pleased to see how the Ireland she loved has changed.