Handywoman Anne "Ma" Kilcommins.
Mountbellew County Galway
Anne “Ma” Kilcommins, Mountbelle, County Galway.
Anne “Ma” Kilcommins was born Anne Murphy and she is the last known handywoman from the Mountbellew area. She married Patrick “Pa” Kilcommins and the couple were known locally as Ma & Pa Kilcommins. Anne served her local community of Mountbellew for nearly 40 years. It is thought her first delivery was that of Christy Reynolds, born on a winter’s night on 1st December 1934, though other sources suggest it was some time earlier. Her last delivery, locals believe, was Sergeant Cathal Gallagher in the 1970s.
Ma Kilcommins was fondly remembered by all her knew her. She was known to be scrupulously clean and even though handywomen were not allowed to practice in the eyes of the law local women called on her for their deliveries as they had complete trust in her skills and cleanliness.
While Ma was not formally qualified as a midwife it raises the question ‘is the community woman still needed today and are we missing the familiar face and full trust in someone during what is often a very traumatic time for women in giving birth?’
Handywomen were outlawed when the Midwives Act 1918 came about but it was still practised in some areas right up to the 1970s. Along with some photographs of Ma there are a few newspaper articles relating to handywomen and the midwifery act in the gallery below.
There is also a link to Anne’s grand-nephew Gerry Lally, Kilbeg, as he chats about his own unique recollections and memories.