A Limerick woman before her time: The late and much-loved Bríd Herbert

Donal O'Regan


Donal O'Regan

The late Bríd Herbert, a ‘woman of faith who lived by old school values that have stood the test of time’

The late Bríd Herbert, a ‘woman of faith who lived by old school values that have stood the test of time’

BRÍD Nash met Mícheál Herbert in a hostelry in Liberty Square, Thurles, after Tipperary defeated Limerick in the 1949 Munster Hurling final.

The future Fianna Fail TD and MEP was playing that day and while he must have been disappointed at losing, he ultimately won a far greater prize. They married in September 1954 when she was close to turning 23. Despite her tender years she had already accomplished more than most.

Born on Main Street, Oola on December 6 in 1931, Bríd’s secondary education was in Kilcullen, Co Kildare, where she was taught through Irish. This imbued in her a love of the native language.

In what was almost unheard of for a woman in the late 1940s, Bríd was accepted in UCD to study Commerce. She could also drive when there weren’t too many cars on the road. Truly, a woman before her time.

People queued from 3pm to almost 9pm on Friday at her home to pay their respects and the church in Castleconnell was full on Saturday.

Bríd’s youngest child, Turlough, described his mother as “incredibly bright” in a moving eulogy.

“She was brilliant in an understated way. She was very courageous and strong, both mentally and physically. She was extremely generous – she would give you the shirt off her back,” said Turlough.

It was her brother Sean Nash who introduced Bríd to Mícheál in Thurles. There was sporting talent on both sides of the family as he won county championships in Cork with Glen Rovers, playing alongside Christy Ring, and in Limerick with Cappamore. He was also a very famous Red Setter breeder and trainer.

After that first meeting love blossomed and the couple settled in Sallymount after they wed. The commerce degree came in handy as there was a busy pub, shop, filling station and pitch and putt course and they kept cattle. The establishment has been in the family for just over 150 years.  A warm welcome from behind the bar by Bríd was guaranteed for decades.

Eight children arrived –  Blaithín, Aidan, Cathy, Mary, John, Diarmuid, Gearóid and Turlough – as if she didn’t have enough to look after.

“She did it with relative ease. She was a really capable person. She was very ably assisted by Maggie Ryan and other neighbours,” said Turlough. Around this time, Mícheál’s political career was taking off. 

“Dad was elected to the county council in 1955. She immersed herself into politics then. He ran in 1965 for the Dail and did very well. In 1969, he was elected to the Dail. He was also an MEP from 1973 to 1979.

“Without her it wouldn’t have happened,” sums up Turlough. 

He said his mother was very close to her late sister-in-law Maureen – married to Sean Herbert. He also spoke of the loss of Marie Herbert last September.

“That was a tragedy. Mum came to the natural end of her days. She was 86 in December,” said Turlough.

Bríd had Alzheimer's for the last 12 years. It was in Sallymount that she passed away peacefully. She was lovingly cared for her at home by her family. Turlough pays special mention to his eldest sister Blaithín and thanked all the neighbours and customers who were very good to her.

In a way it was payback for all Bríd’s kindness through the decades.

On behalf of the Fianna Fail party, Deputy Niall Collins expressed his sincere condolences with the Herbert family.

“The Herbert name is synonymous with so many positive aspects of community life in Limerick through both the GAA and Fianna Fáil politics. Bríd was well known and loved by so many people across Limerick and beyond. She will be hugely missed by her extended family and many friends,” said Deputy Collins.

Parish priest Fr Brendan Kyne celebrated the funeral Mass with the assistance of Bishop Willie Walsh, Fr Seamus Gardner, Fr Raphael Gallagher, Fr Loughlin Brennan, Rev Aisling Shine and Fr Tom Whelan.

Fr Kyne said Bríd was very much at the centre of her family’s life.

“Her life was selflessly devoted to their well-being, their personal advancement in life, her quality of care and her generosity extended to her many grandchildren, who held a special place in her heart. Her generosity also very much extended to her many good friends, her neighbours and patrons, who were cherished and very much appreciated by her over the years.

“Herself and Mícheál ran an exceptionally busy house and businesses. Bríd also nurtured her interest in politics, the Irish language, the ICA of which she was a member for many years, a love of art and in the words of her very good friend Maureen O’Sulllvivan she had a ‘lovely, kind and generous heart’,” said Fr Kyne.

He described the Oola native as a “devoted Mass-goer and a woman of faith who lived by old school values that have stood the test of time.” On a personal note, Fr Kyne said he always enjoyed Bríd’s company, loved her smile and her kindness to him.

Fr Kyne said Bríd was extremely adept at camouflaging Alzheimer’s due to her intelligence.

She engaged the whole time while being lovingly cared for at home by her family members with special mention to Blaithín for the wonderful care she provided, he said.

In his homily, Fr Kyne put it beautifully when he said ”memory loss was like watching the filaments of a dandelion being taken by the breeze”. 

All the filaments may have gone but the roots Bríd Herbert put down will last for generations. May she rest in peace.