Cathy Harkin: An Appreciation

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Cathy Harkin died on 22nd July, 1985

On her headstone are the words:
“It was as brief as it was difficult.”

Though the words were placed by Cathy in memory of her greatly loved mother, no words could better sum up Cathy’s own life.

Cathy worked for many years in a shirt factory in Derry, a hard life, badly paid, but not uncommon in Derry. She married and had one son, Terence, and a daughter, Molly, who was an infant cot death.

Cathy was involved in the Derry Labour Party for many years and was in the Derry Housing Action Committee which was linked to the start of the Civil Rights Movement.

But it is probably for her part in Women’s Aid that she will be most remembered. Any woman who came to her for help was sure not only to find a sympathetic helper, but a friend. She was available at any time, day or night, for any woman in trouble. She used to say that she would get arthritis of the shoulder from the many tears that were cried on her. However, she never complained.

She worried greatly about many people, from the young prostitutes that were being cruelly treated in her home town of Derry, to those people who were crushed by poverty, trying to bring up children on not enough money. You could always be sure that Cathy would put the interests of anyone else before herself.

When she got the opportunity to avail of formal education, she chose to study history, graduating with a degree in the late 1070s. Cathy was always up to date on Welfare Law and appeared often with claimants at Tribunals, getting whatever was possible for the applicants though often despairing at what was available.

Cathy was imaginative. You could never be bored in her company. Her mind could see angles to every situation that would not normally strike you. She was fun to be with and, after talking to her, you went away refreshed and uplifted.

Cathy was a feminist, a socialist and a trade unionist but mostly Cathy was a beautiful Derry woman. She will be greatly missed.

“It was as brief as it was difficult”.

Written by Avila Kilmurray. Source: City of Change by Dermot Kelly, 2007. Yes! Publication, 10-12 Bishop St., Derry.

3 thoughts on “Cathy Harkin: An Appreciation”

  1. i completely disagree. brief though cathy’s life was, and difficult, she rose brilliantly above her condition. You’d look forward to morning tea and baps in her tenement flat, in defeat, in victory and in dreams. She got a degree, a council house , and dinner with Robert Redford in New York ( this last was very important to her and sickened the rest of us. ) I associate Cathy with energy, good nature, precision planning, qnd raucous gossip. She was unsentimental and unsparing about the burden carried by her mother’s generation- lest we forget – and heart sorry her mother did not live to enjoy the hard won improvements in derry, thanks to Cathy and company. nell mc cafferty

  2. I knew Cathy in the 70s in Derry, when I was involved with what remained of the Derry Labour Party. In addition to what is said above, she was quite simply a beautiful person,who exuded such confidence in the future, such concern about the present and such warmth to all around her that she made an unforgettable impression on me. And not only me. Many years later I remember her with great warmth and affection.


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