Sections of the finished piece showing the painstaking detail Mary went to to ensure this was truly a work of art
This is a remarkable story about how Ballyshannon woman Mary McGrath’s amazing lockdown project became a labour of love and a family heirloom to honour her late sister.
Forty-four years ago, in 1977, Mary McGrath’s sister Geraldine passed away. It was a desperately sad time for all the family.
Mary, (one of the Curran family from Cluain Barron) who now lives in Cashelard and her seven sisters were all given some of Geraldine’s jewellery which was divided up among them to ensure they would all have something as a keepsake and a memory to treasure of a sister they all loved so much.
Mary was given Geraldine’s watch, a ring and a charm. For years she kept them safely but every time she opened her jewellery box, her eye was drawn in particular to Geraldine’s watch.
More often than not she sat looking at the watch or held it in her hands, it brought back memories of Geraldine of course, but Mary wondered how she could display it in some way to remember and honour her sister.
Mary McGrath, Cashelard, with the stunning creation she made using jewellery from her late sister Geraldine, her late mum Eileen, her own jewellery and jewellery from her sisters
“I just couldn’t come up with an idea that would work, I wanted to honour her and her memory. Over the years I thought of various things; it was always at the back of my mind, but none of the ideas seemed right,” Mary said.
But, by a curious twist of fate, this latest and ever contrary Covid-19 Lockdown gave Mary an opportunity to think, time to go back to the drawing board and finally work out what she wanted to do with the watch and how to remember Geraldine. Mary had a plan!
She decided that she would use the pieces given to her after Geraldine passed away as the starting point for a jewellery encrusted mirror.
In addition to her own jewellery , she also had pieces of jewellery from her late mother Eileen and from her sisters, Breege, Eileen, Ruby, Geraldine (RIP), Caroline, Catriona, Josephine and Teresa, who gladly donated pieces.
Anyone who knows Mary, knows that when she does something, it is done well and there are no half measures. All of the pieces were assessed and woven into a remarkable creation that sees Geraldine’s watch take pride of place - it was the first piece Mary placed, and from there the rest followed:
“I worked on the design, the size of the project overall, I then looked at the various pieces I had, jewellery my mum had and when I spoke to my sisters they all gladly chipped in with some lovely pieces of their own, so it is very special to all of us as everyone has contributed, it’s a family heirloom now.”
Having worked away quietly on it for months, this lockdown labour of love was completed and ready for her sisters and family to see for the first time in mid January.
On January 23 Mary posted this note and some pictures of the finished piece on Facebook: “Lockdown project completed. Mirror decorated with old jewellery. Lots of the pieces donated by family members so it automatically becomes a family heirloom piece.”
Within an hour Mary’s sisters had been in touch, all of them blown away by something that they can all treasure and something that allows them all remember a much-loved sister and mother.
The perfect spot for Mary McGrath’s ‘Mirror of Love’
Mary told how much their approval meant to her: “I'm absolutely thrilled with the outcome and love the fact that ALL my sisters’ jewellery, as well as Mammy’s, is on display for a very long time.
“It was great getting feedback from my sisters that night I posted a few pictures and they were so thrilled to see their pieces in the mirror.
“I could feel their smiles through their messages. I think it will become a centre-piece and a conversational piece in my home.”
It is much more than a lovely piece, there’s creativity there for sure, but for what strikes me most of all looking at it is how much love went into it and how much love is in it.
I think Mary may have inspired others to follow her lead.
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