Throughout the world, there were few businesswomen who were still working at almost 100 years of age, but May Green was special.
She was a stalwart figure of The Cova Shop on Ballymahon Road from its inception in 1948, to just a few years ago and in the 1960s she started a branch of St Vincent de Paul in Athlone to help the Travelling community.
The Athlone shopkeeper, who in the early years of the last century encountered the Black and Tans and survived many WW2 bombing raids in London, became a legend in her own lifetime.
May Green (nee Kilroy), who was born on March 29, 1912, three weeks before SS Titanic sank, grew up in Arcadia, Athlone when the area encompassed a few small farms, including the Kilroy homestead.
Her life was fascinating, and was recounted in great detail in the biography, ‘Growing Up in Arcadia’ - which May and her sisters, Madge and Alice wrote together in 2005. May was one of a family of eight, all of whom are deceased, except her sister, Alice Egan, who is 100 years old.
May’s father, Peter one time put up a May bush and filled it with flowers for May Day, and until shortly before her death, May kept up that tradition. Each May 1, she spread the path outside The Cova with flowers to celebrate the holy day.
May remembered the burning of the Westmeath Independent in 1920 by the Black and Tans, and as an eight year old she stepped over hoses and muddy water, and was close to the smoke and flying sparks.
In the 1930s, after her marriage to Dublin native Jack Green she went to live in London, where Jack was working as a Quantity Surveyor, and where they experienced the bombing blitz of WW2. May and Jack had two sons, Desmond and Eamon.
Unfortunately Jack suffered ill-health and spent most of his life in hospital in Dublin, and May faithfully visited her husband every week, until he died in 1990.
In 1948, after she felt that Jack would not recover sufficiently to come home, May began her plan to build The Cova shop on the family farm. At the time she read a book about Fatima and about the area of the apparition there being called The Cova, which is why she chose the name for her shop.
The shop built up bit by bit, and was originally at the front room of the current family home in Arcadia, and as the local population increased, the shop grew in size and stature, and products became more varied with the years.
For almost 70 years, the Cova had a family feel to it, with May and her son Eamon, and later his wife, Nancy, running the Arcadia shop seven days a week, catering for the needs of local and passing trade. The business was one of the last of the old family shops on the outskirts of Athlone
The love of family ties and faith and religion was very evident in the life of May Green. Her courage and work ethic was an inspiration to all who knew her story.
She was very philosophical and believed that it wasn’t good to give up too early in life, and she also lived by a phrase – ‘Do It Now’, rather than putting things on the long finger.
May Green was reposed at Flynn's funeral home, the Strand, Athlone, yesterday evening, which was followed by removal to the Church of Our Lady Queen of Peace, Coosan.
Requiem mass took place today (Thursday) at 12 noon with burial afterwards in Coosan cemetery.
Ar Dheis De Go Raibh a Anam Dilis