Ivy McMath - Camus-Juxta-Bann

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Ivy Louise Mc Math 1918 - 2009

Funeral address 9 Jan 2009 by The Revd Michael Roemmele MA

Ivy Mc Math was one of those people whose enthusiasm for life and her positive, optimism made any time spent with her a real  blessing to those who knew her and who enjoyed her company.

Although I knew her personally only for a very small part of her long and eventful life, every time we met and spoke with each other we discovered that we had much in common.  In our childhood we had lived in houses a mere 200 yards apart just outside Limavady where her father had been a master baker.  We both shared Scottish parentage. We had both served in the Royal Air Force, and our years of service had been years that we looked back on with great affection.

Ivy Adam went to Wallace High School in Londonderry and then worked for a time in a solicitors office in Limavady but gave up her aspirations for a career in law as a very young woman to become an officer in the WRAF in the Second World War.  It was a decision she never regretted. She served in a variety of highly classified roles and enjoyed her war-time service enormously.  Although her postings never took her overseas and despite being wounded in the London blitz, she made the most of the opportunities that military life gave her. She even had opportunities to fly aircraft which were being transported to operational airfields  and seized them enthusiastically. Perhaps, most significantly, while still in the Air Force, she married Ernest, a young airman, who came from just a few miles away from her own home in Northern Ireland, a man who was destined to have a prestigious career as a civil engineer and who played a significant role in the development of the motorway system in England.

Her marriage made her a member of the Mc Math family who were local farmers and landowners,  and great benefactors to this church and ultimately gave her the house at Ballinteer in our parish, which she had loved so much from the days of her honeymoon, and to which she was able to return to from England as a widow, to restore and make the home where she would spend  the rest of her life.

In those days, it was not possible for a woman  to remain with the Royal Air Force as an officer married to an airman, so Ivy resigned her commission to become Ernest’s wife, and while he pursued his post-war career, she gave her time to voluntary charitable work, particularly the Save the Children Fund.

Although she was never blessed to have children of her own, she was devoted to her nieces Muriel and Rosemary and always thought of them as the children she never had.

To them and to her other surviving family members, Joan, Tom, Marie, and Elizabeth and to them and also to, Richard and Louise we offer our sympathy and condolences today, as they mourn her passing.

Although her greatest love in life was for her husband Ernest , from whom she was separated by his untimely death, and for her extended family she had other great passions in her long life.  Her garden was her pride and joy, as were the books which she read avidly.  She was a fiercely independent soul and took great delight in her maintaining her independence to the end. She knew that nobody else could cut the grass, operate any of her fleet of lawnmowers or care for her beloved garden as she could.

Despite living in a remote country house, some distance from her nearest neighbour she was never lonely and never bored.  Such isolation might have turned any other person into a recluse, but not Ivy.  It amused her to think that there were some who thought of her as a bit eccentric, but she was never isolated from the real world.  She was in constant touch with her extended family by telephone and letter. Nonetheless,  her animals were always her greatest and most loved friends and companions,  and throughout her illness her concern for their well-being was more important to her than her own health.

Always a person of simple tastes she loved the quiet simplicity of the life which her house in the country offered her. She needed and wanted no luxuries and was even reluctant to install central heating, preferring always to put on a few extra layers of clothing.
As far as she was concerned, she had all she ever wanted and the only things which she would ever have regarded as loss would have been her sight and her ability to enjoy walking.

In the short time that I was privileged to know her, I discovered her to be a very spiritual person.  She loved to receive communion at home with me at Christmas and Easter and took an active part in the short  services which we shared.  

She knew her Bible and Prayer Book well and had such a deep faith and love for her church that it became a real pleasure to minister to her. She also had a mischievous sense of humour. Early last summer, some time before she went into hospital for the operation where her illness was diagnosed, she read in the Diocesan magazine that the parish was about to have a Gift Day for the building fund and that we planned to link the church with the adjacent hall and make the two buildings compliant with the needs of disabled people. With a twinkle in her eye she said, ‘I’m not going to make a donation, but I’ve asked my family to support the project after my death - they have much more money than I have, and you will do much better with their help than mine.’ At that time I doubt that she had any idea that her death would be so imminent, or that we would mourn her passing as the last of the Mc Maths so soon.

Last night as we brought her body into the church and passed the Mc Math memorial window, which depicts Jesus as both ‘The Good Shepherd’ and ‘The Light of the World,’  I was very conscious of the great contribution that the Mc Math family has made to this church. But it isn’t for what they gave financially or for the tangible and visible memorials that they are primarily remembered, it is for who they were and the part they played within the church family that we thank God. People often  speak to me with fond memories of Nancy Mc Math and her influence for good over many years among countless young people in the Sunday School. Ivy Mc Math may not have been so well known or by so many, but she will long be remembered by those who did know her as one who had a great love for God, a devoted servant of Christ and faithful member of this church.

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