Sunday, March 8, 2009

Anna and the People!

It is with a sense of sadness but also with a smile that I note the passing of a true blue Waterfordian. A Freeman of this ancient City. The one and only Anna Manahan. What a great person she was. A wonderful actor? Yes for sure! A great Waterford woman? Absolutely! An International Star? Yes indeed.

There will be many who can recall her long and accomplished acting career far better than I. I saw her in several Red Kettle (and other) productions after her career in later life seemed, like herself, to gain renewed vigour. I rejoiced when she won the Tony Award and I was delighted that she was, during her lifetime, awarded the Freedom of the City - the highest recognition that it is possible for us, as City Councillors, to give on behalf of the people of Waterford.

But I have to say that her last and most passionate role, surely, was in her role as spokesperson for the elderly people of this City and this Island. She used her name and fame to give voice to the fears of hundreds of thousands of older people who were terrified late last year when the Government planned to take away Medical Cards from them all.

I last saw Anna in action at the public meeting protesting the closure of St Brigids Ward in Patrick's Hospital a few weeks ago. No-one who attended that night could be in any doubt as to her passion. Her words were strong. Suffice to say that she was not very complimentary towards the Government, Fianna Fail or the HSE! Like it or lump it, Anna called it as she saw it.

She tolerated no attack on the old, the infirm or those who were vulnerable and she channelled her considerable talents into speaking on their behalf - even though she was obviously not well herself and had to leave the meeting early. I met her afterwards. "How was I, Mary?" she asked, the way all actors will seek a critique of their performance. "You were wonderful Anna," I said. And she was. She spoke with all the experience her considerable acting career had given her. She was funny. She was outrageous. She was insensed! She was honest.

And now she is gone. I hope Anna, that you are in heaven and that you are, in the words of your own favourite song ".....forever blowing bubbles, pretty bubbles in the air!" May you rest in peace.

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