Wini pictured on 29th April, 1953 (courtesy Hardiman family, Doonaun)
Wini Coppinger and her twin sister Kate were born on 24th May, 1880 in Kilbeg just outside the demesne wall of the Ffrench estate at Monivea, Co. Galway. The Killaclogher river meanders its way from Attymon to the Clare River a short distance inside the demesne wall while nearby stands the ancient Kilbeg Wedge Tomb dating back to over 2,300 years ago.
It appears that all of Wini’s sisters except Kate, her twin and her only brother John, emigrated – many of them to the U.S.A. John remained on the family farm and worked as a carpenter as his father before him had. The Coppingers are listed as Master Carpenters on the Census returns of 1901 and 1911 and were carpenters for the Ffrench family who were the local Landlords of a large estate of 10,000 acres in its prime in the late 1800’s.
Copy of birth certificate of Wini and Kate Coppinger:
Wini’s parents Michael Coppinger (1839 – 1928) and Katherine Coppinger (nee Fahey) (1838 – 1916) (Photographs courtesy of Coppinger family, Kilbeg)
The site of the original Coppinger homestead, Kilbeg: Tom Coppinger, Ballaghdereen, Co. Roscommon as a young boy pictured with the original house in the background (courtesy of Coppinger family, Kilbeg).
Wini attended Monivea National School and the Mercy Convent, Tuam. While attending secondary school she was encouraged to draw and paint by Sr. Gertrude. Thus began a pastime that was to last well into her seventies. She drew and painted the familiar scenes she saw around her.
On her way to Monivea National School, she would have crossed through Monivea woods where the Castle owned by the Ffrench family stood in the height of its glory. The young girl was obviously impressed by the large ivy clad house and its sweeping avenues, gardens, orchard and flowers, and the many beautiful old trees that surrounded the Castle at the time. The many fox hunts that were a frequent event in this area were featured in many of her paintings. The “Gentry” and their fine fleet of horses, wearing their red or black jackets and women riding side-saddle – jumping the stone walls and fences followed by packs of hounds, was a colourful sight.
Wini pictured with her nephews (circa 1908): John, Mattie, Walter and Tommie Coppinger (photo courtesy of the late Bridie Coppinger)
In 1908, Wini married Pat Hardiman, a farmer of Clough, Gurteen and raised four children: Mary (1910 – 1961), Patrick (Paddy) (1911 – 1990), Kathleen (Molloy, 1913 –1993) and Peter (12thFebruary, 1916 – 30th August, 1983).
Clough was a large Townland at that time with 33 named families listed in the 1901 Census and 35 named families listed in 1911.
Known affectionately as “Modie” (childish word for Mother) to her family, they remembered her retreating to an upstairs gable window in the thatched roof house in Clough to draw and paint. With the money she earned from selling eggs, she bought a supply of paper and paints. Her son Peter recalled the arrival of rolls of white paper in the post. The watercolour paints were in a box set of half pans of colour with assorted brushes.
The Hardiman house was close to the local boglands where people from near and far came to harvest their turf. It appears that Wini gave away many of her paintings as gifts to relatives and friends and to other persons she knew.
The only exhibition of her paintings was during the 1992 Skehana (Menlough) Festival when family, relatives, neighbours and friends kindly lent their paintings to be hung in the Skehana Community Centre for the duration of the Festival.
Wini lived at home in Clough into her eighties and was lovingly cared for by her daughter-in-law Mary Ann (1911 – 2001), son Paddy and family. Her twin sister died on 7th July, 1958.
Wini died at home on 27th March, 1964 and is laid to rest in Templemoyle Cemetery, Tysaxon.
Today, many of her descendents live locally and in other East Galway parishes as well as in the Reading area of England and, interestingly, the gift of drawing, painting and related interests has been inherited and is still alive! In recognition of her being an accomplished artist in the area a full exhibition of her paintings was held during the 1992 Skehana Festival.