Development & Alumni Relations Office 

Margaret Kinsley McIvor (died 26 January 2007 - aged 91)

(Obituary and Appreciation by Dr Elizabeth Miller (daughter))

Margaret was born in Belfast , the elder daughter of Robert Nicholas and his wife, Mary Bell. He worked for the Belfast Bank (now the Northern). She had a sister, Betty. When her father was transferred to Bangor, the family went to live in Mount Pleasant (near Pickie) and her long love affair with the sea was born. She was a good swimmer and loved the water and walks along the sea shore. Summers in Bangor continued for two months each year until the late seventies.

Her first school was Miss McGrath’s – a small private school and there she met Vangie Ellis who became a life long friend. She went on to Victoria College, being of an academic bent and won a scholarship to Queens. She was unable to accept it as her father refused to sign the clause stating that she would be unable to go without it and that must have been the only time in her life when she did not agree with him. Her father was a remarkable man who had the gift of making everything fun, I think she inherited this from him as she always had a smile and a gift for talking to everybody and anybody and making them feel special. A grandson said that she always made him feel that he was the only person in the world when she was with him and others shared this perception.

While she was at Queen’s the family were in Rathfriland. During the week she stayed with her Aunt Nellie James in Eglantine Avenue. Unfortunately, at this time she became ill (probably rheumatic fever) and she spent months in bed so when she graduated in 1936 with an honours degree in English she was very disappointed it was not the highest class. (Professor Baxter was the English professor at that time.) Most of the people she was with at Queen’s also became life long friends. She rode pillion on a motorcycle, very daring in those days, which amazed her grandsons. Soon after graduating she met the man who became my father. He was older by thirteen years and also worked in the Belfast Bank. He was Glennie Charles Alexander McIvor and they married on 10th June 1939, having bought 13, Kincora Avenue in Belfast.

So started the Kincora years, she was once the new bride and ended up the oldest inhabitant but it was a fairly stable population and the neighbours became friends and remained so. Life was very different then. Elizabeth, her only surviving daughter, was born in May 1940 while the family were still in Kincora. The war intervened and they moved to a cottage in Killinchy for a short time but she developed pneumonia and nearly died – she was one of the first to be treated with the new M&B 633 (a sulphonamide) with quite unpleasant side effects. The family then went to her parents, still in Rathfriland, to recuperate and stayed there until the war ended in 1945. The friends from those years also remained close to her.

Back in Kincora, life resumed. Jane, who hailed from Sligo, became a part of the household. Bridge parties became popular and she enjoyed this game right into her eighties. Reading was always a big part of her life, as was gardening. In 1951 her father died. The family moved to Eglantine Avenue to care for her Mother and Aunt. She started looking for work as a teacher but because she had no experience this was difficult. She finally found, or was found by, Miss Meek, (Mrs. Anderson,) who had a private school in Bawnmore Road and she settled very happily to coaching younger children. This continued until Miss Meek retired. Trying to find employment, it was suggested that she accept temporary work and she had a couple of very hard years moving around in situations for which life had not prepared her – teenage boys towering over her who did not want to be in school. She coped and was noticed by Miss Craig of the Girl’s Model and as soon as a job came up, she moved there. As head of the English department she was fully involved and again made many firm friends among the staff and pupils. In 1959 she went on her first school trip to Austria and went on a cable car! Other school trips followed and great fun was had by all.

During the years in Eglantine Avenue she was fully involved in Queen’s activities and an enthusiastic member of the Queen’s Women’s Graduates Association. She served a number of years on the committee and was the liaison officer with the Women’s Club. She always enjoyed the meetings and encouraged friends to join as well. Again, the friends she made there have remained friends until now. The family returned to Kincora in 1966 and she started teaching at Bloomfield Collegiate where Miss Ethel Gray was headmistress. She stayed until she retired in 1980. So, there were more friends! She was fully involved with plays, public speaking and a magazine. She disliked speaking in public herself and was determined that ‘her girls’ would be able to do so. The only time she spoke in public was when Alison Rooke, who had been a teacher with her, asked her to do a Women’s World Day of Prayer sermon. She also spoke at her own retirement and apparently both times she was excellent. She continued with QWGA during all this time, played some bridge and enjoyed outings to the theatre.

When she finally retired she joined Mrs. Devlin’s English class at QUB and went on holidays with her. The most memorable was the Russian trip. The buildings were magnificent and she was enthralled by all she saw. She continued to enjoy bridge. She joined the Knock Reading Circle which met each month and so she kept up with a wide variety of books. Books were probably her main passion in life and she was enthusiastic in passing on her love of books and English to so many. She attended St. Columba’s and supported the Mother’s Union, especially the Monday afternoon group. She advised one friend to live life to the full and never refuse an invitation. When in her eighties she wrote once that as she was getting slower she had decided to accept only one invitation per day but her letters did not reflect this resolve.

She loved travelling and was very interested in all she saw. As well as the Moscow trip mentioned she was away with school parties to Innsbruck and Paris. Her first trip to Africa was in 1967 and she explored Rhodesia, driving down to Durban, over the garden route to Cape Town back up through Kimberly and back to Salisbury (Harare now). There was never a quiet moment in the car. She flew to Malawi where we stayed with Hugh (later to be her son-in-law) and she was interested in all she saw. Later she came with us to America (Houston and the Southern States as well as Disney World) and she went with her sister to Canada for her nephew’s graduation. She also made four more trips to Malawi.

In 1968, her daughter married and moved to Malawi. She kept in touch by writing, she was a prolific writer. There was an endless stream of letters telling all about her doings, expressing her opinions about things so one always knew what was happening in her life. She was widowed in 1975. Life gradually settled down for her, she continued teaching until 1980, when she was 65. By this time her grandsons David, followed by Shaun, had returned to NI to boarding school. She looked after them and was a real surrogate Mum, going to all the parents evenings and house competitions. They were able to be with her most Sundays and her friends were roped in to help entertain them. She had a wonderful rapport with them and her friends knew all about them and their doings. Richard followed in 1987 and she started again with him. All the boys developed an abiding affection for her. I don’t think she ever recovered after seeing Richard with bad cerebral malaria in 1996, it really upset her. She had had a scare when David had malaria at Loughborough in the late eighties, but she didn’t SEE him.

In 1998 she had her heart operation and did have to slow down but she continued going out. She enjoyed her bridge and the Afternoon Group at the church and still attended QWGA meetings. She fell at home and broke her wrist. It was never quite right after that and she found it increasingly difficult to get around. She went to Malawi for three months to recuperate but missed her friends and was quite ready to return home. The next winter she had ‘flu and, helped by her nephew Bobby, decided to go to Hamilton House, an Abbeyfield. After we retired and arrived back in Kincora in April 2002 she decided to stay in Hamilton House where she was very happy. She had a number of falls and became less able to manage so, after a spell in hospital, she went to Strathearn Court nursing home. She missed ‘her boys’; Shaun had gone to Australia in 2001 and David followed in 2004, while Richard took himself to Mexico. She was delighted to be able to be at David’s wedding in Donegal in 2003 (where she saw ‘her boys’ all together again) but she missed Shaun’s wedding in Australia in 2005. She always followed their news avidly and was delighted to become a great grandmother to Mia (Shaun) in 2005 and Spencer (David) in 2006. She saw both of them in the year before she died and I think she felt she had come full circle. It was shortly after David and his family returned to Australia that she died peacefully.

Her legacy continues on in the lives of those she influenced and encouraged to make the most of themselves – so she still lives on in them and in our hearts.



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