Molly Fleming GM: A nursing heroine

Liam Treacy- Mary Fleming’s nephew got in touch to tell us what he remembered about his Aunt Molly.

“My Aunt Molly was born in 1916 and was the eldest child of Michael and Mary Fleming, Clonganhue, Cappawhite Co Tipperary. She was the eldest of 9 children (8 girls and one boy) on a small farm and went to London at a young age with her two sisters Nora and Bridie to train as nurses. Nora married an Irishman, had one son and returned to Greystones Co Wicklow in the 1960’s. Bridie married a Londoner, Ron Cornell, and remained in London until her death in the 1980’s. Their son, Pat, is a recently retired Deputy head of a large London School. Mary, always known as Molly, returned to Ireland in the late ’50’s to take care of her ill and bed ridden father who died in 1960. Her brother, who inherited the farm became very ill with a severe bout of Rheumatoid Arthritis, a severely debilitating condition at that time, especially for a farmer. Molly remained on in Ireland to run the farm and continued to do so until she died 32 years ago with stomach cancer. As I recall, staying permanently was never the intention, but weeks became months became permanent. At one point during a good period for my Uncle’s condition she worked as a personal nurse locally to a retired British Army Officer until he died.~

As a young lad I spend a lot of time with my Aunt as my mother sent us to help on the farm for the school holidays. I learned a lot from her and my Uncle Eddie and my Grandmother. I was always enthralled by her energy and work ethic. No task too difficult or too demanding. She milked 13 cows by hand twice a day, fed calves, pigs, chickens. Saved hay and all the other farm duties. Kept a garden and did all the domestic chores. She was quiet and soft spoken. She was a very slim and elegant woman with a ready smile who liked nothing better that to put on the “style” for the big event of the week. Sunday Mass. She lived a simple but committed life in rural Ireland. I was always amazed as to why she had abandoned her London career in favour of a hard physical life on a farm in rural Ireland.

As I grew older I realised that Molly had a massive sense of responsibility and was a real Christian in her outlook. Her sense of service extended beyond the farm. My own mother had 9 children and as each child arrived Aunt Molly would arrive and take over the house in Dublin while my mother recovered. She became ill in her sixties and finally succumbed to stomach cancer at age 69. She suffered silently. She was hugely mourned. My Aunt Molly led a life of service and commitment. She was religious and prayerful. I don’t think she ever returned to London. She never married and living the life she did in Tipperary she had little opportunity to meet a husband. I often wondered about the life such an attractive and nice person had left behind in London. She never spoke of her life there and even more amazingly never mentioned her George Medal herself. Whenever it was raised, which was rare indeed, she played it down and never spoke to me about what happened on the day the hospital burned. My Aunt Josie has the original medal and lives very close to the family home in Clonganhue. I’m in possession of the other documents Molly received from King George