Irish community mourns loss of local leader and radio favourite

Irish community mourns loss of local leader and radio favourite

THE Irish community in Berkshire and beyond is mourning the passing of community leader Anne Morris, who died suddenly last month at the age of 77.

Anne was the founder of the Hibernian Society Senior Citizens Lunch Club, building it up from scratch in the English Martyrs Church hall in Reading and attracting stars including Val Doonican and Daniel O'Donnell to drop by to meet her ladies and gentlemen, sing a few songs and pose for treasured photographs.

The club later expanded to three sessions a week at the Reading and District Irish Centre, where the Wednesday lunch regularly drew at least 50 pensioners of every race, creed and colour.

Anne was the prime mover, mentor, fundraiser-in-chief. recruitment and public relations officer and organised tea dances, quizzes, traditional music nights, Christmas concerts and an annual golf tournament to ensure it kept going.

No club member ever missed a lunch without receiving a phone call from Anne to check whether their absence was anything other than routine, while everyone's number was on her speed dial just in case they might need a cheering chat.

Born in Dublin's Rotunda Hospital, Anne was one of eight children raised by James and Elsie McAdden in the village of Rathowen, county Westmeath.

She was educated at Newtownforbes Convent in County Longford before the family emigrated to England in 1960.

She worked at the BBC Monitoring Centre at Caversham Park but most of her working life was spent with the NatWest bank, where she once recalled: “I'd see people come into the bank who hadn't spoken to another soul since they were in the previous week, which is where I got the lunch club idea.”

Before that she persuaded the bosses of BBC Berkshire to launch the ever-popular Sunday afternoon Irish Eye radio programme, before going on to co-present it with Henry Wymbs, as the spread of the internet took them to a worldwide audience.

When she finished her 17-year stint on the show in 2012, going solo with her own programme – A Little Bit of Blarney – on community radio in Reading held no fears.

In 1997 her fundraising took her into the written word with Broth & Blarney, a compendium of short stories and anecdotes by the likes of John B. Keane and William Trevor, and favourite recipes from contributors including Cathal Daly, the Archbishop of Armagh, former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds, novelist Maeve Binchy and singer and harpist Mary O'Hara.

Anne was pre-deceased by her sons Sean and Andrew and will be sadly missed by husband Keith, her daughters Claire and Joanne, her five grandchildren, her brothers and sisters and anyone who ever had the privilege of knowing or working with her.