Tribute to Nan Stack


The Director and Staff of World Missions Ireland are very saddened to pass on the news of the death of one of our most loyal and stalwart volunteers.

Nan Stack passed away on Sunday , in her 100th year.

Her passing  in this , the 100th Anniversary of the Easter Rising , is almost a fitting bookend to her rich and satisfying life. Nan was truly committed to her faith, her views and her beliefs  and was a hugely valued and valuable member of our volunteer team here at WMI .

We now take the opportunity to post a piece written by Sally McEllistrim who enjoyed a cup of tea , or several! with  Nan , during one of her many visits to our offices here in Rathmines.

The piece was written in 2013.

Ar Dheis De go raibh a anam dilis.



2013 .

Nan Stack is quite literally living history. She has a store of stories and memories that in years to come will surely become one of our last links to the birth of our Republic.

The sprightly 97 year old came into the world in 1916, one of the most tumultuous and important periods in our chequered history.  She has vivid memories of the War of Independence and remembers the reign of terror wreaked by the hated Black and Tans.

Born into a comfortable family in Newcastlewest, Carraigkerry to be exact, Nan was one of four children. She remembers a happy secure childhood, loving parents, extended family and gentler, simpler times.

Not so gentle of course are some of Nan’s earliest memories. Her parents ran a shop and pub, and their home was a well recognised “safe house”, a haven for the old IRA on the run. Nan was just five when she remembers the Tans kicking in the door and barking orders at her parents.

“They were rough dirty looking things, with horrible long beards! Naturally I didn’t know who or what they were but I knew nasty when I saw it!”  She quite liked the ‘look’ of the Officers however!. When I remind her that they, the Auxiliary’s, were even more feared and worse perhaps that the lowly Tans, she has a glint in her eye when she says “Oh yes, I know that now, but they smelt better!”  Ah, the innocence!

She has tales of bravery and quick thinking. One features a girl who worked in the kitchen for her parents.. “Yes, I remember that girl like it was only yesterday. One day there was more activity than usual in the house. Lots and lots of people coming and going.. One fellow, he must have been only 18 or so but he was ancient to me!. Well, I saw the girl pulling off his tie, he was one of the ‘boys’ as they were known. I thought it strange and I followed the girl to my Sister’s bedroom where I saw her hide the tie under the baby’s pillow… Hidden in the tie of course I later learned was a letter which presumably would have been of vital importance to the Tans and would have allowed them track down some of the IRA on the run. That girl was smart”.

Underground tunnels ran around the edges of Nan’s home and these were the tunnels that she saw her Mother bring provisions to the men hiding within them. Does she consider her parents brave?.

“Well I suppose they were, but they were only doing what they felt was right. That’s all any of us can do really isn’t it”.

Fast forward a few years and Nan spent many happy years at boarding school in Ennis. The Nuns she remembers as kind and gentle but they could be “strict too of course” she smiles. Musing on the roads that we all follow in our lives, Nan says that she would have liked to have been a Teacher but a happy mistake led to a long career in the Civil Service…

“It was funny, I was supposed to be going to a dance and I ended up instead doing the entrance exams for the Civil Service!. Funny really how life goes. I did love it though”.

Ireland was a deeply devout country at the time and Frank Duff, the Founder of the Legion of Mary was regarded as more devout than most!

“I knew him so well” Nan says and “he was one of the most genuine people one could meet. He had a lovely way about him, a true interest in others that can’t be faked. He saw qualities in others that may not have been obvious to all”.

He could be funny and witty too Nan recalls. “One day he visited the Morning Star Hostel which of course he founded and reviewed the obituary list. At that time there would be a list of those who had died to try and help the families with the funeral and so on. Well, he went down through the list and said “God, if all those lads are in heaven it must be one hell of a rough joint!” Smiling at the memory Nan says “it was hilarious and showed a lighter side to Frank”.

Blessed with the gift of Faith, Nan says that she has lived happy and fulfilled life…Never married, would she have liked to?”

“Oh yes, I certainly would but the right person just never appeared”.

“There’s still time Nan” I say to which she responds laughingly.

Till then perhaps Nan continues to volunteer at the office of World Missions Ireland continuing a tradition spanning almost four decades .The organisation is the official mission charity of the Catholic Church in Ireland, supporting missionaries and mission projects in up to 80 countries.

“ Oh you all do fantastic work . I love going down to you and there is always a great welcome. I will continue to do so once God spares me. Imagine, I never thought I’d be still going strong at 97! I believe in the work of the Missions, they have such a fantastic record in developing countries and it is really something that the Irish people can be so proud of ”.

Her brothers have since passed on and she counts herself lucky to still have her Sister who at 94 is “much younger than me”!.

A self assured, self contained person, Nan holds herself with a lovely quiet dignity that speaks of a person happy with her beliefs and her values.