Alice McElwee, who passed away at the weekend.
Tributes have been paid to a well-known County Derry mother-of-sixteen who passed away over the weekend.
Alice McElwee had 38 grandchildren, 22 great grandchildren and 16 children of her own, including triplets who died in infancy, and Thomas, who died in the 1981 hunger strike.
The Bellaghy woman's daughter Pauline paid an emotional tribute to her mother at her funeral yesterday.
She told mourners how Alice was a private woman, but one who fully embraced her life.
“Mammy often took trips across to Scotland with Aunt Maggie, and the pair of them would head off on the boat to Dumfries to visit family over there,” she said.
“Mammy also was the founder of the Boy Scouts in Bellaghy and also a member of the Irish Womens' Federation, and the odd weekend she would head off to An Grianán with them.
“She would spend a weekend there taking art classes, maybe pottery, dancing, whatever was going, she was up for it.
“Even though she was a quiet and private woman, she loved to talk about the friends she made there from different counties in Ireland.”
Pauline told those congregated in the church how Alice would have enthralled her grandchildren and great grandchildren with tales of the boat back to Ireland when she was a young girl.
“My mother was born in Philadelphia in 1925. Between the ages of 7 or 8, the family moved to Ireland,” she said.
“She often told stories to the grandchildren and great grandchildren about the trip home on the boat.
“One of the stories she told was about the races the children had on the boat and how she had come first and won a wee doll.
“When her family moved back to Ireland they stopped in Ballynease before moving to Portglenone and on to Mulholland's Town.”
Alice moved from Mulholland's Town when she met her husband, Jim McElwee, who built the family a house in Tamlaghtduff, outside Bellaghy.
She was hugely devoted to her faith, which sustained her during a period of illness following the birth of her second child.
“Mummy had a great devotion to Our Lady and attended the Legion of Mary for 40 years,” said Pauline.
“During this time she would have gone with her great friend Mrs Nugent. They would have walked together and maybe picked up a few flowers for Our Lady's altar on the way there.
Alice featured in the TG4 documentary 'Máthair' last year.
“Her devotion extended to heading off to Lourdes on the buses with the Christian Leaders' Movement alongside her yearly visits to Knock, of course.
“She would have taken each one of us as children. Some have better memories of it than others, but she would have taken us all at different stages to help us appreciate her love for Our Lady.
“She also was a pioneer her entire life and has quite a number of pins to show for that. Mum's faith was very important to her; the Rosary was said every night at home.
“Her strength of faith helped her through some of the most difficult times of her life, and in fact every aspect of it.”
To Alice, age was inconsequential, and in recent years she would travel on the bus to the gym at Erin's Own GAC, Lavey, and the driver would often have to chase her beloved dog, Cody, back into the house before the bus could leave.
Her love of life went hand-in-hand with her love of music, and Pauline told mourners how she delighted in the talents of her grandchildren and great grandchildren.
“She had a great love for Irish music and Céilidh music in particular,” she said.
“In fact, just a few nights before she died, they were singing to her and playing music. In later years she loved to listen to her grandchildren and great grandchildren playing music and singing to her.
“Over the years, Mammy just loved to get family together. Every Christmas we would have booked somewhere for Christmas dinner. She loved a night out and a dance.
“One of her favourite songs is 'The Walk of Life' and of course it had to be put on no matter where you were at.
“What a life she has walked.”
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