Tralee People Meet The Queen At Centenary Of Bombing Of School In London

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Kerry genealogy researcher Martine Brennan meets Queen Elizabeth II at the commemoration last Thursday.

RELATIVES of a Tralee woman who saved the lives of many schoolchildren during World War 1, met Queen Elizabeth as she was remembered in London last Thursday on the centenary of a terrible event in the English capital.

The relatives were found after a public appeal by Kerry genealogy researcher, Martine Brennan, earlier this year.

She was contacted by a group from the Upper North Street School commemoration group who wanted to find relatives of a Mary O’Donnell-Cunnington.

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Teacher Mary ran into the Upper North Street primary school in the London district of Poplar in 1917 which had been bombed and she pulled many  children from the burning building. However, 18 children — 16 of them aged just five years old — perished in the bombing. Some of the adults who were present during the bombing later took their own lives, such was the horror of  what they encountered.

Mary O’Donnell was later awarded the OBE for her bravery.

Martine got to work and thanks to a piece on Radio Kerry and a story by, contact was made by relatives in Tralee.

Mary O’Donnell was born in Tralee in 1881 to father Michael O’Donnell from Annascaul, and mother Julia Hanafin from Rathass, Tralee. The family left for London before 1901.

Msgr Sean Hanafin.

Her distant cousins Msgr Sean Hanafin — who was told of the story by colleague Fr Bernard Healy after he read it on — and his sister Patricia Nolan, and their cousins Eileen McSweeney and Eddie Shanahan attended the special 100th anniversary commemoration at the weekend.

Msgr Hanafin also was among the multi-denominational clergy leading the prayer service including rabbis, an imam and Church of England clergy.

Both Martine Brennan, Msgr Hanafin and Patricia Nolan got to meet Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, who only confirmed they would be attending a few weeks ago.

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