Lasting tribute to May McClintock

Lasting tribute to May McClintock
Carolyn Farrarcarolyn.farrar@donegaldemocrat.com@dgldemocrat

Teacher, historian and environmentalist May McClintock was remembered on Tuesday evening as a woman whose contributions to history, heritage and environment have been felt by generations across the town and county.

Family and friends gathered at Letterkenny’s Sentry Hill on Tuesday for the official unveiling of seating in memory of May, who passed away in March of this year at age 84.

Brian Walsh, PRO of the Letterkenny Community Heritage Group, which organised the event, said that May’s name would likely appear in the acknowledgements of any book written about local history in the last 50 years.

“I suspect just about everybody who’s written something about local history in this area has had that moment when they thought to themselves, ‘I think May McClintock might have something on that particular point,’” he said. And May would have given that assistance happily, “and was keen that it would be shared”, he said.

Brian called the seating, “a small gesture for an enormous contribution that has been made to the heritage of this town”.

May was an active member of many organisations, including the Donegal Historical Society; Letterkenny Tidy Towns, of which she was a founding committee member; An Taisce, who presented her with a lifetime achievement award in 2013; and the Irish Farmers’ Association, who recognised her contributions with an honourary life membership.

Anne McGowan, chairperson of Letterkenny Tidy Towns, said the site of the seating was a space, “where May’s memory is amplified in everything we see around us”. 

The old cattle mart site reflected May’s work for farming organisations; the schools, her gifts as a teacher. May also supported nearby Scoil Cholmcille in securing its first environmental Green Flag, one of the first four in the country, Anne said. The hill overlooks Conwal Church and St. Eunan’s Cathedral, reflecting May’s great interest in and knowledge of church and ecclesiastical matters. 

”May loved all children,” Anne said. “Where May saw an emerging talent, she never missed a chance to pluck it from the edges and bring it into the light.” She said in recent years May had illuminated the work of many young artists, stonemasons and authors.

Cllr. James Pat McDaid, mayor of the Letterkenny Municipal District, formally unveiled the seating. He said it was very important to remember people like May, saying she will be very hard to replace in the community.

Rev. Stewart Wright delivered a short reflection and prayer to open the ceremony, saying, “We thank you for the light of May and the richness she has contributed to this community.”

Brian Walsh thanked Donegal County Council for their help with the memorial and Cllr Jimmy Kavanagh, a member of the heritage group, also thanked May’s family for allowing the group to make the tribute.

“May’s commitment to agriculture, to education, to heritage, to history, they’re all here,” Cllr. Kavanagh said. “And I think with that she would be well pleased.”

Speaking later, May’s son Dearn agreed. He also pointed to a tree near the seating, which had been planted to mark the first visit of Pope John Paul II to Ireland in 1979. The tree had been moved to Sentry Hill after it was damaged on lower ground.

May was instrumental in getting the tree planted, Dearn said, adding, “And now her seat guards the memory of the pope’s tree, and I think that’s so poignant. She would have loved that.”

Pictured: May McClintock’s sons and daughters Stephanie Jones, Dearn, Virginia Fox and Jonny with Mayor James Pat McDaid and members of the Letterkenny Community Heritage Group at the unveiling of the summer seat in her memory on Letterkenny’s Sentry Hill on Tuesday.