Tributes have been paid to Collette Hughes, “a very devoted and caring wife, mother and grandmother”, who passed away last Thursday, November 23, after suddenly taking ill two weeks ago.

A former Surgical Ward Sister at the Erne Hospital, Mrs. Hughes was presented with an MBE by Prince Charles in December 2008 at Buckingham Palace for services to Healthcare in Northern Ireland.

It was a special moment in her life and is one of the many treasured memories being recalled this week by Mrs. Hughes’ grieving family.

“She was humbled by the award and insisted that she was collecting it on behalf of all her colleagues on the Surgical Ward,” said Mrs. Hughes’ daughter Sinead.

A native of Caramore, Ballyconnell, County Cavan, Mrs. Hughes is survived by her husband Tom, daughter Sinead (Nigel Cullen), son John (Sarah Finnegan), granddaughter Niamh, sister Christina Drozd and brother Noel McGee.

Mrs. Hughes trained at Baldoyle Dublin and Gulson Hospital, Coventry. She lived with her family at Dressogue, Maguiresbridge. She came to the Erne in 1966 as a staff nurse, before being appointed Surgical Ward Sister in 1974. She retired from nursing in February 2008 after 45 years, 42 of which was spent in the Erne Hospital.

During her working life Mrs. Hughes was actively involved in the Ulster Cancer Foundation and the Fermanagh Breast Cancer Support Group.

She was also a co-facilitator for the Enniskillen Cancer Support Group. 

After her retirement, Mrs. Hughes remained involved in nursing by undertaking night sister relief in the Erne and in the South West Acute Hospital (SWAH). She was also involved in non-emergency ambulance transfers between SWAH and Altnagelvin and undertook her last transfer just two weeks before her death.

“Her family and her work were her two passions in life,” said Sinead, who added: “There is a huge gap left in our lives.”

Mrs. Hughes loved looking after her only grandchild Niamh, aged three, who was “the apple of her eye.” 

“Niamh and Nanna had many happy and memorable days together,” said Sinead.

The family were appreciative of the care and the many words of comfort and sympathy they received from Mrs. Hughes’ nursing colleagues during her time in hospital and after her passing.

Her funeral Mass and burial took place in St. Mary’s Church, Maguiresbridge on Sunday past. The main celebrant was Canon Dawson, Brookeborough and the service was concelebrated with Monsignor Cahill, Maguiresbridge and Canon McQuaid, Chaplain to Mount Lourdes Grammar School, where Sinead is a member of the teaching staff.

A large crowd was in attendance and a guard of honour was provided by nursing colleagues and staff and students of Mount Lourdes Grammar School.