It was a night full of emotion as a huge number of family, friends, current and former colleagues and members of the community joined together at the Gables restaurant, Dungannon, in celebration of the retirement of Ethel McIvor, BEM.
After 38 years of dedicated service to the community as leader of the Lollipop Playgroup, Donaghmore, Ethel has decided to hang up her Lollipop jumper to enjoy her well-deserved retirement.
Ethel took over as leader from Anne Doris back in 2000, and she has led the Lollipop Playgroup diligently since then. Certainly not afraid of hard work, Ethel enjoyed her working full-time at the playgroup while raising her young family – and she managed to complete not just a degree, but a master’s too!
Selflessly-committed, there were even times that Ethel roped in many members of the community for ‘a wee favour’ or two to bring the playgroup to where it is today.
Under Ethel’s leadership and with the support of her dedicated staff and committee the playgroup has consistently received excellent ETI inspection results, and, following expansions and changes of premises, the group has supported the early development of a staggering two thousand children.
The chairperson for the committee Lauren McAleer, described how Ethel is ‘the life and soul of lollipop playgroup’, and thanked her for the time, dedication and love’ that she has shown throughout her career.
Ethel was then presented with flowers, a beautiful portrait in her lollipop playgroup uniform and a decorative bench.
Siobhan Fitzpatrick former chief executive for early years, and her colleagues, Sharon Flannigan and Audrey Rainey, were also in attendance at the event, while all the local schools were represented on the night by Martina Martin, principal of St Mary’s Primary School Carland.
Martina was full of praise for Ethel, stating that she was ‘a great support’ – and she is always welcome to return for a cup of tea.
Despite her workload, Ethel still found time to sit on the board of governors of Windmill Integrated Nursery, and Phoenix integrated in Cookstown, and is highly-respected.
With a remarkable dedication and commitment to children and young people, it is only apt that this has been recognised through her British Empire Medal award in the New Year’s honours in 2013.
She received her medal at a garden party at Hillsborough Castle surrounded by her family.
Also in attendance on Friday night were Ethel’s sons, Gordon and Neil, and her sister, Anne.
In his speech Neil, a teacher himself, spoke emotionally about the pride that the family have for Ethel.
He referred to ‘the two men here, and the two men up above’, speaking of course about Ethel’s beloved husband, Billy, and her son, Andrew, who are no longer with us.
“Both of them will be looking down on you tonight, mummy!” he said.
Andrew and Billy were dedicated supporters of the playgroup.
Whether Andrew was helping fill in funding applications or documenting policies for his mum, or it was Billy gathering whatever supplies were needed and separating staples from fundraising tickets for the Christmas raffle, they were never far away from whatever Ethel needed.
When it was her turn with the microphone, Ethel recalled how her ‘beloved Billy loved those children as much as she did’, and how Andrew ‘adored the playgroup, and would’ve done anything for it’.
She further paid tribute to the many people that shaped her career, including Margaret Hayden, the early years specialist for the area who supported the playgroup, and Marian Blayney and Eilish McKay, to name but a few.
Ethel, the whole community wish you the very best of health and enjoyment in your retirement, and thank you deeply from the bottom of their hearts for the service you have given. Families throughout the district will always fondly remember you as ‘everybody’s granny!’
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