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Popular Irish woman who embraced Shrewsbury dies aged 94

By Rob Smith | Shrewsbury | News | Published:

An girl who was a family friend of the Irish revolutionary Michael Collins and settled in Shrewsbury more than half a century ago has died.

Brenda Gittins

Brenda Gittins, who has died aged 94, was born in Dublin, the fourth of nine children, to famous concert singer Violet Gore and Paddy O'Donoghue, who was a close friend of the politician Michael Collins, a leading figure in the Irish struggle for independence in the early 20th century.

He was even the best man at the couple's wedding.

In later life Paddy, who had brought greyhound racing to Ireland, was part of the company that opened Celtic Park Greyhound track in Belfast and co-founded the prestigious Shelbourne Park race track in Dublin.

Brenda moved to Shrewsbury in 1947 to work at the Royal Salop Infirmary. She met Tom Gittins and they married in 1949.

Her daughter Debby wrote about her extraordinary life.

"Having qualified as a radiographer in Dublin, in 1947 Brenda like many others looked for work in England, successfully applying for a position at The Royal Salop Infirmary in Shrewsbury," she said.

"Brenda knew nothing of Shrewsbury at the time and attributed her move to the town to the luck of the Irish. When she was told of her daughter's job offer, Brenda's mother encouraged her to take it.

"Shrewsbury Road in Dublin was well sought-after and a very pleasant place to live – Brenda's mother was convinced therefore that Shrewsbury must be similar.

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Honoured

"Whilst Brenda did not entirely agree with the logic at the time, she often commented since that her mother had been proved to be entirely correct.

"In 1949 Brenda married Tom Gittins, later to become senior partner at Hall Wateridge & Owen (now Halls), chartered surveyors, auctioneers and valuers. Tom was an agricultural auctioneer and became a major figure in the county’s farming and agricultural community.

"Brenda was involved for more than 30 years with the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital League of Friends, was on the fundraising committee and in 1994 appointed chair of the executive committee.

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"She became involved in many charities including the Severn Hospice and the National Trust. In 2014 Brenda was honoured to receive a community service award from the Rotary Club of Shrewsbury.

"A keen singer and pianist, Brenda greatly enjoyed music and was an enthusiastic member of the Shrewsbury School Community Choir.

"Brenda and Tom greatly enjoyed horse racing both as spectators and later as owners and, typically of them, soon became part of the racing community.

"Although Brenda lived in Shrewsbury for over 70 years she never lost her love of Ireland and all things Irish (or her Irish accent). She returned whenever she could for holidays, family celebrations and any occasion which provided her with an excuse to travel ‘home’.

"She brought her Irish spirit to everything that she did – never short of conversation, she always had a moment (or a few) to stop and chat with you – whether she knew you or not. It is not surprising that Brenda had a huge circle of friends and became a well-known personality in Shropshire."

Brenda is survived and missed by her children Geraldine (Evans), Debby, Allen and Patrick, her 10 grandchildren and eight great grandchildren, her extended family worldwide and her many friends.

Rob Smith

By Rob Smith
Reporter

Senior reporter for the Shropshire Star based at Ketley in Telford.

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