I met Ann Louise when I was about 14, she and Katherine Zappone came for dinner, because my mum (my beautiful mother as she would affectionately call her!) had gotten involved with The Shanty through Ann Louise’s sister June.
My abiding memory is meeting these two women who had a beautiful aura about them, as a couple they had this beautiful respect and love for each other, a gentleness – a connection that was invisible but visible. I saw this same connection between them every time they were together. At meetings, at social gatherings. At our annual winter ball. Our golf days. On the day the country voted yes. On Katherine’s appointment to ministerial office. On their wedding day, and as recently as last March at international Women’s day lunch.
I remember thinking wow, these women have set up this amazing organisation The Shanty, they are a big deal… and they are listening to me, they are interested in me and what I have to say and what I want to do in the future. I realised then how fortunate all of the women were all of those years ago in the Shanty, and An Cosán. They were listened to. Someone cared.
And that is what continues here today.
So all the years later I was in awe in when I was fortunate enough to sit on the Board of An Cosán along with Ann Louise, I was able to see her in action. She was always thinking of everyone else. Of fairness. Of social justice. Of inclusion. Of education. Of learning. Of healing. Of love. Ann Louise had this beautiful ability to listen, not hear, listen. Then she would pause and think – I imagine the cogs in her mind going round and round as she would process what she had heard – and then she would reply, each sentence delivered with accuracy and a respect for everyone in the room, wherever she was. I have this mantra – Be like Ann Louise. Listen. Listen. Then think before you answer!
Ann Louise’s achievements are endless. Reading the papers since yesterday has reminded me of many and I think there are many I never knew about. She is a champion. A champion of Education. A champion of Human Rights. A Champion of Social Justice. We here in An Cosán are a family, a family that was blessed with the most wonderful of women. A woman before her time. Who faced adversity and just stared right back at it with love and respect.
When I took over from Bill as Chair of the board two years ago, Ann Louise was in a position to come back on to the board after a brief sabbatical. Her input and experience will be sorely missed. And I say that on behalf of the current board and indeed past board members. She was all things education. All things an Cosán. All things governance. All things respect. And fairness. And love. She was inclusive and questioned everything and as a board she always challenged us. And for that I have huge respect and am eternally grateful to her.
I speak from a personal experience today, and I am conscious of doing that, but I believe my experiences to be so similar to the many people she has thought over the years. She encouraged me. She praised me. She thanked me for my leadership and sent me the most beautiful and thoughtful handwritten notes (which I have on my mantle and kept in various drawers around the house!). On the days when I felt a wobble, it was like she knew and she would call me after a meeting and tell me all the good bits I had done, and how we could fix the wobbly bits. I always came off the phone from her feeling more confident not only in myself but in what we were doing. She empowered me.
I was reading the Lighting the Path publication from our 25th Anniversary – all the stories have a similar theme –getting confidence. It’s a gift. Ann Louise was a gift. Knowing her was a gift. And I think I speak for everyone who met her, I am sure she touched your life in some way. Bill Roche said to me yesterday that she really impacted him in the 80’s in that she set a moral compass for him. He still draws on that today.
I remember Ann Louise as warm, and thoughtful and wise. With a beautiful smile and a wicked sense of humour. She loved a bet or two on the horses, and loved to dress up for the races on occasion! She was glamorous and fabulous, and formidable and tough. She wasn’t afraid to dream big. I mean look where we are! She told me after a board meeting once, after a big discussion and of course the worry was always the money and how we would fund this!!?
She put her hand on my arm and calmly said to me, Anna, Money Chases Dreams.
So Ann Louise – thank you for sharing your dream and for having the courage to chase it. For making us believe. Giving us the confidence to do it. I speak again for the board past and present and all of your colleagues at An Cosán that it has been an honour and pleasure. We are honoured to carry your vision onwards and you now have the ultimate place at our board room table – please guide us well.
Chair of the Board of Directors , An Cosán
In memory of our beautiful Co-founder Dr. Ann Louise Gilligan, who passed on away on June 15th and delivered at her wake in An Cosán on Friday June 16th 2017