I was saddened close to midnight on Wednesday of last week when I received news of the death of Brid Shields. It wasn’t totally unexpected as she had become progressively more ill in the last few weeks, her serious illness diagnosed about two and a half years ago.
The daughter of the late Pat and Mary McGahan from the Rock Road in Dungannon, Brid was the widow of Pat Shields, formerly of Lisnagleer, and the mother of three sons - Niall, Dabheoc and the late Diarmuid, and a daughter, Margaret.
Brid, who worked for a number of years in Moygashel factory, was a fervent supporter of the Tyrone team and was also a keen snooker follower. She also had a wonderful passion for doing crosswords and jigsaw puzzles.
Brid’s life was cruelly shattered beyond comprehension back in 1993 when evil terrorists took it upon themselves to decree that it was time for her husband since 1964 and their youngest son to meet their Maker, an utterly devilish and cowardly act which ranks as one of the worst in this part of the country throughout the entire campaign of tit-for-tat murders which dogged the land for more than thirty years.
In addition to losing her husband and their university student son Diarmuid, Brid and her other children had to heroically fend off a frenzied attack from the loyalist gun gang and another son was wounded as they did so. And, compounding their grief, Diarmuid’s distraught girlfriend, Julie Statham, took her own life less than four weeks later.
Outsiders can only begin to imagine what tremendous effect, the horrendous crime must have had on the surviving members of the entirely innocent Shields family, yet Brid was instrumental in them regrouping and cobbling their lives together again.
That says much for the character of the young mother, who was a tower of strength throughout a very trying time. And I’m publishing below the relevant extract from the book Lost Lives to illustrate the commendable and very admirable attitude adopted by Brid and her courageous family in the wake of their monumental loss at the hands of terrorist thugs.
Having known the family relatively only at a distance before their involvement with snooker, I got to them all very well when the East Tyrone League was re-established in 1983. When Pat learned of the league’s revival, he was excited as he had been toying with the idea of converting his garage to accommodate a couple of tables.
His premises weren’t going to be ready in the short timespan indicated – just three months, but he set to work and the club was available to host the final!
Lisnagleer later became my ‘home’ club and club teams enjoyed quite a few successes, many memorable nights spent with team-mates like Vinny Donnelly and the late Raymond Hughes enjoying great craic, Pat and Brid always making us all very welcome in the ten years it existed.
It was a homely place and regularly we played until three or four o’clock in the morning, Pat often heading to bed, comfortable in the knowledge that we would be there when Brid arrived back from her ‘ceili’– with the familiar beeping of the horn announcing her arrival and indicating that it was time for one of to open the garage door.
Prior to their move from Tully Crossroads to Lisnagleer around 1973, Pat and Brid ran a little craft business in the Ann Street premises formerly operated as a confectionery store by Mary McQuaid and then for a number of years they ran the shop on Donaghmore Road known as Tommy O’Neill’s. Pat, one of the county football team’s most dedicated backroom assistants, was later employed as a lorry driver for an engineering company.
After the dastardly deed was perpetrated upon them, the surviving family members stayed in Lisnagleer for almost a year before moving to Coalisland, where Brid and her children were made most welcome.
Indeed, her immediate relatives and the extended family circle on both sides worked above and beyond the call of duty to make life as comfortable and enjoyable as possible in the circumstances, something for which she was always very grateful.
Until her health dictated otherwise, Brid loved annual trips to Lourdes with her great friend, the late Bernadette O’Donnell, and was proud of an unbroken spell of seventeen years on the pilgrimage with the Clogher group. And she also enjoyed trips to Canada to visit her two sisters, Nuala and Edna.
The family was well prepared for Brid’s peaceful and dignified passing at her home and her sisters were amongst the many loving family members at her bedside as she slipped away.
Survived by sisters Peggy, Nuala and Edna, Brid was predeceased by her brother Brian and sisters Shiela and May. My sincere sympathy is extended to her them and her sons and daughters and wider family circle - including her seven grieving grandchildren. May She Rest In Peace.