Getting to know the Founder of Mothers' Union in Ireland
1847 – 1921
As we celebrate Annabella Hayes’ legacy 100 years since her death we take the time to reflect on her life.
Mothers’ Union was founded in Raheny, Dublin in 1887 by Mrs Annabella Hayes. Annabella was born in Dublin in 1847. In December 1866 she married the Reverend Francis Carlisle Hayes who was then curate in Sandford Parish Church, Dublin.
In 1867 he was appointed curate of St. Andrew's Church, Suffolk Street, and their first child, Ernest William Carlisle Hayes, was born in February 1868. In 1873, Sir Arthur Edward Guinness (later Lord Ardilaun) appointed him Rector of Raheny Parish and he and Annabella moved to the Glebe House where they were to remain for the next forty-five years.
Their second child, Marie Elizabeth (always known as May) was born in May 1874, and in April 1878 her sister Ethel Clara Ridley was born. A boy, Maurice, was born in 1886 but sadly died in infancy. Ernest went to school at St.Columba's and an English governess, Connie Gibbs of Willesden, was appointed to look after the education of the two girls.
In 1887 Annabella Hayes set up the first branch of the Mothers' Union in Raheny, inspired by what Mary Sumner had done in England eleven years before. Little did either of them know that in the twenty-first century world-wide membership of Mothers Union would have grown to over four million.
Canon and Mrs Hayes liked to travel and after Marie's untimely death in Delhi in 1908 aged 33, they travelled to Delhi to visit the hospital where Marie had worked for the previous three years and to meet people she had worked with. Later Annabella edited and published letters which Marie had written to home. Marie's final letter, sadly, arrived some weeks after the fateful telegram giving news of her death had been received in Raheny. The Hayes memorial cross in Raheny village was erected some years later.
Canon Hayes retired in 1918 and he and Annabella moved to 12 Northbrook Road which was apparently owned by Francis since his days at St. Andrew's. Annabella survived a bad bout of 'flu shortly after they moved, but was taken ill again about a year later. She was diagnosed with liver cancer and died at home on the 7th February 1921 age 74 and Francis was 94 when he died on 12th December 1931.
Annabella is buried in St. Fintan's Cemetery in Sutton and her headstone (and that of Francis) stands at the highest point of the Cemetery. It is, however, not made of stone but of wood - teak, and despite its having stood there for 100 years there is absolutely no sign of decay in the timber. The cross however has suffered some weathering, the plinth that supports it is cracked and the grave itself needs some repair.
No family members could be located and our application to the National Heritage Council for a grant towards repairs has been supported by the Heritage Council under the Community Heritage Grant Scheme 2021 which will cover the marjority of repair costs. To acknowledge receipt of this grant Mothers’ Union hosted several events during National Heritage Week 14th to 22nd August 2021.
Rededication of the Grave of Annabella Hayes
21st August 2021
The grave of Annabella Hayes is located in St. Fintan's Cemetery in Sutton. To celebrate the centenery of the death of Annabella her grave was refurbished with grant aid from the Heritage Council and it was rededicated by the Archbishop of Dublin, The Most Revd. Dr. Michael Jackson, on Saturday 21st August. The Deputy Mayor of Fingal, Daniel Whooley, was also present and addressed the crowd. Also present were June Butler, All-Ireland President of Mothers' Union and Karen Nelson, Diocesan President of Dublin & Glendalough Mothers' Union, and many other invited guests.
It was a wonderful occasion to honour the memory of Annabella Hayes who founded the first branch of Mothers' Union in Ireland in Raheny in 1887.
Service to commemorate the life of Annabella Hayes
All Saints' Raheny ~ 21st August 2021
Following the re-dedication of Annabella's grave in St. Fintan's Cemetery, Swords, a service to commemorate the life of Annabella Hayes was held in All Saints', Raheny. The service was led by the Mothers' Union Chaplin of Dublin & Glendalough, Rev. Canon Leonard Ruddock. The Archbishop of Dubling, the Most Rev. Dr Michael Jackson, the All-Ireland Chaplain of Mothers' Union, Rev. Canon Robert Deane and Canon Aisling Shine from All Saints' Raheny also participated in the service.
Sylvia Ayling from Raheny Branch gave a very interesting account of the life of Annabella Hayes at the start of the service. The service concluded with Karen Nelson, Diocesan President of Dublin & Glendalough, thanking everyone who was involved in organising the days commemorations and she also thanked all those who attended the event in St. Fintan's Cemetery and the service in All Saint's.
We are very grateful to Rev. Canon Leonard Ruddock for facilitating the recording of both events and for allowing them to be uploaded onto our All-Ireland YouTube channel.
The refurbished grave