The late Mary Brady (nee McKeon), Tullyvin.

Popular hairdresser and business woman laid to rest

There was widespread sadness last month at the news that Mary Brady (nee McKeon) had passed away.

A female entrepreneur, Mary ran Mary McKeon’s Hairdressing Salon on Main Street Cavan from the age of 19 years until she retired in November 2018. Born March 18, 1951, she was the firstborn of Michael and Phyllis McKeon, Aughagoldrick, Stradone. She later became older sister to Andy, Micheál, and twins Margaret and Róisín.

Mary did well at Laragh NS and then the Poor Clare Convent in Cavan. She was very creative and, like her mother, was a great dressmaker making her own clothes including her wedding dress.

In 1967, when Mary was just 16, she entered a competition organised by Macra na Feirme in which young women compete for the title 'Queen of the Land' based on their appearance, personality, energy, confidence, dress sense, rural knowledge and elocution. After winning the Cavan heat, Mary went on to represent Cavan in the final in Tullamore but was pipped for the crown by a County Westmeath girl.

Mary wanted to pursue a career in hairdressing and at the age of 17 went to Dublin to train with the world-renowned Vidal Sassoon where she graduated with a certificate in hair and beauty. She returned to Cavan and started her hairdressing career, initially as an employee of Mrs Fox working in the salon over Fox’s Shoe Shop on Main Street.

However her entrepreneurial flare was evident and she started her own salon at the age of 19 in a rented premises, previously owned by Mrs McCluster on Upper Main Street. She had one more move and that was a few doors away to 43, Upper Main Street, Cavan where she remained until she retired in November 2018.

Mary was successful from day one and that was due to her wonderful sunny personality, her work ethic and care for her clients, many of whom were loyal from the first day she started her business in Cavan until the day she put away her scissors in Mary McKeon’s Hairdressing Salon in 2018. Her clients got together to have a retirement party for her.

Mary welcomed every customer through the doors, she had enormous respect for everyone and they in turn respected her. Passionate about her trade, Mary gave demonstrations in the Tech (Cavan College) and gave young budding hairdressers the opportunity to see if hairdressing was for them by accommodating them for work experience.

She developed many new hairdressers, some of whom went on to establish their own hairdressing businesses. They included Margaret Dolan, Margaret Conaty, Marcella Downey, Ita Harten-Shaughnessy, Denise Tully, Karen Fitzsimons and she handed over her salon to Carol McCusker, granddaughter of Mrs McCusker, from whom she rented her first hairdressing salon.

Mary also collaborated with the local businesses in Cavan during her 48 years working on Main Street and treasured the many friendships she made.

She loved dancing when she was young and would go to the carnival in Stradone where she was very much admired. However one boy in particular caught her eye and that was Andy Brady from Kill, Cootehill, whom she went on to marry in 1973 and they had their three wonderful children - Alan, Marice and Clare.

Mary was very bright and a ferocious reader, which was evident by the huge bookshelves in her home in the Fall-O-Water, Tullyvin. Around the age of 40 years, she went to Dublin City University (DCU) and successfully completed a diploma in English and Sociology. She used her knowledge when she joined the Cavan Monaghan Education & Training Board (CMETB) on a part time basis where she supported adult literacy.

She made many friends during her time with CMETB who were a great support to her in her final months. There are many stories of Mary taking her students to Dublin to enjoy the museums and art galleries to support them to gain confidence. She also embraced the Polish community in Cavan who joined her literacy classes and helped them to write a cookbook of their favourite dishes. Mary herself was a fabulous cook and her Sunday lunches in Fall-O-Water, Tullyvin, are legendary.

In the last few years, Mary’s joy was the marriages of her three beloved children and she and her husband Andy welcomed their daughter-in-law Siobhan O’Riordan and sons-in-laws, Darren Kavanagh and Pat Nannery. However, the arrival of her grandchildren - Amhlaoibh, Annabelle, Alice-Rose, Andrew and Georgia-Mai and the recent addition a great grandchild, Freya, brought great joy to Mary. Her eyes would light up when a young person came into the room.

She had great empathy for them and seemed to connect with them and they with her. Consequently, her nieces and nephews would arrive to the Fall-O-Water unannounced to see Mary over the past few months where they would watch football on the telly or sing riotous songs.

She was in her element on those days and especially the day Cavan played and beat Donegal in the Ulster final.

Mary’s bedroom was akin to Croke Park with her family and nieces and nephews shouting their support for the Cavan Team.

Sadly, Mary was dealt a heavy blow with her recent diagnosis in August, which she met with her usual positive and ‘can do’ attitude. She fought hard and never complained. Mary McKeon-Brady passed away in the loving care of her family on Monday December 14. May she Rest in Peace.