The death has taken place peacefully in the Erne Hospital, Enniskillen on May 11, 2012, of Sarah Reihill (nee Sweeney), affectionately known as Sally. She had been in declining health for some years, which she bore with characteristic dignity and great strength.
One in a family of 10 children, Sarah was born in 1926 on a farm in Kinmore, Lisnaskea. She qualified as a nurse in the early 1950s and worked in what was then the new NHS for some years in England, and in particular Sheffield which she loved. Later she settled back to her native Fermanagh and was about to marry when she contracted Tuberculosis (TB), a disease which killed two of her brothers in the decade before. Plans had to be put on hold as she underwent treatment, including a partial removal of one lung. A lengthy stay in a sanatorium saw her restored to full health and in 1958 she married a school teacher, the late Patsy Reihill, and had four children. She continued to work in what was the old County Hospital until ill-health compelled her to retire early. Thereafter she worked in family bar businesses in the Railway and Central Bars in Irvinestown during the 1970s and 1980s and was well liked and respected; she was able to convey a warm welcome, or quieten a bubbling row, with a look and a slight tilt of the head. She was an astute judge of character but was never waspish, and seemed to be able to settle people at their ease in a moment without it ever seeming effortful or contrived. Sarah was a keen reader of fiction and a reader and viewer of current affairs, both interests which she maintained as long as her eyesight would allow. Intensely interested in politics she was a passionate democrat, never afraid to argue her corner but never allowing differing opinions to sully friendships. She had a gracious manner, and yet was completely down to earth - someone whom people always had fond memories of. She enjoyed being surrounded by her family and revelled in a good evening out, prepared to try cuisines from around the world. She travelled regularly to England and Newtownards, visiting family, until declining health no longer made this possible.
Sarah endured the loss of her husband in 1982 in tragic circumstances at an age when her children were just leaving home themselves, but bore the loss without complaint or self-pity. She had an enduring and quiet charisma which drew people to her and was a great hit with her grandchildren for whom she always had time. Never stuffy or old fashioned she was as aware of contemporary culture as she was of the past. In summer 2011 she attended a Sweeney family reunion at the old homestead in Kinmore, not leaving the function until 2am in the morning. The affection from the many nephews and nieces was evident to see, and the whole experience seemed to give her a huge boost and a light in the eye that seemed to burn for months to follow.
She is fondly remembered as a kind-hearted modest woman with great qualities of quiet determination, compassion and intelligence, and the ability to make people feel special with an encouraging word and a warm welcoming smile.
Her funeral, celebrated by the Rev. Fr. Michael McGourty, took place on Sunday, May 13, at the Sacred Heart Church, Irvinestown with interment in the adjoining cemetery. The funeral arrangements were carried out by Claude McKervey, Ederney.
Sarah is survived by her four children, Patrick, Sutton Coldfield; Una, Newtownards; Mark, Rutland; and Helen, London; nine grandchildren and a sister Agnes Newtownards. The Month's Mind Mass will be celebrated on Saturday, June 16 at 7pm at the Sacred Heart Church, Irvinestown.