In Memoriam

Amid all the madness of the exhibition at the Arts Club and the studio open days, I was reminded how short our lives are, and also how lucky I have been to know such great friends.

In December I lost two such people. First, Suzanne McGowan and then later, Eithne Carr. I had known Suzanne for most of my life. She was the principal of the Teresian School, where I went. It was a remarkable school and very different from other schools in the 60’s, and possibly even today. I was very happy there and it was largely down to its ethos of friendship and kindness. As a principal, Suzanne was no nonsense, sensible, fair, and although she always seemed to be in a hurry, she had a good ear.

With her incredible memory, she knew everyone who went to through it’s gates, what class they were in, their sisters or brothers, and what we were doing after leaving there. I have no idea how she managed to gather all the endless information. Suzanne often turned up at exhibition opening nights, and if not, she would send a note wishing me well. I shall miss her friendship, her smile, her laugh and much more.

I met Eithne when she joined us in Fine Art as a maturer student almost thirty five years ago. She was (I feel strange using the past tense) a force to be reckoned with! A beautiful painter with a stunning sense of colour. I know no one who can use blue the way she did. Eithne did not suffer fools. She could be blunt and would always say what was on her mind…often without thinking of the repercussions! At the same time she was a very good friend, and immensely kind. I remember anxiously going into Mount Carmel to have my hip replaced and who was waiting at the entrance with a bunch of irises, blue of course? Eithne. A couple of weeks before this, she had turned up on my doorstep with the snazziest walking stick for me, as she knew I had been in terrible pain with the same hip.

I cannot finish without mentioning her studio. I can honestly say that it made Francis Bacon’s look like a kindergarten class. But the work that emerged from it was simply stunning. I sat for her a few years ago and I remember picking my way through jars of turps, tubes of oil and acrylic paint, books, CDs, newspapers, magazines and dead flowers to the relative safety of “the chair”. As she worked we’d have endless conversations about art, religion, politics or really anything that came into our heads. After a couple of hours, we would go for a bowl of soup and arrange the next sitting. To this day I have not discovered how, on one occasion, I ended up with an enormous splodge of bright pink oil paint in my hair. But that was the risk you took when venturing into Eithne’s world!