End of an era for nurse who is retiring after 44 years

They say that when you are a nurse, you will touch a life every day due to your insatiable need to help others – or a life will touch yours.

This couldn’t be any more true than for Mary McCullagh, who, for more than 40 years, has been a steadfast member of Sperrin Family Practice, Plumbridge, dispensing kind-hearted comfort, compassion and caring without so much as a prescription.

But all good things must come to an end, and tomorrow (Friday), marks a special day for Mary: It is the Plumbridge lady’s very last as a nurse before retiring, and she is facing the era’s end with both excited anticipation and fond reflection.


Perhaps in life a job chooses a person, more than the other way around, but this certainly wasn’t the case for Mary.

Born in 1954 in Draperstown to parents Patrick and Mary McGlade, Mary recalls that, even as a child, she had her heart set on becoming a nurse. She was part of a large family of two brothers and six sisters, and from a tender age, she enjoyed caring for her siblings, and others.

Indeed Mary, who was the third eldest in her family, also remembers receiving a nurse’s outfit from Santa Claus once upon a time, and this sent her already vivid imagination soaring with hopes for the future.

Brilliantly for the ambitious young lady, this life-long dream began to take determined form during her time at Magherafelt Technical College, where she studied a course in nursing before moving on to train as a nurse in Altnagelvin, Derry, from 1973 to 1976.

“Those were fun times; fun years,” Mary smiled. “We were young and carefree, and there were so many lovely people who I trained with, and seven of which I still meet up with twice a year to this day. They are Josephine, Claire, Magdeline, Pauline, Joanne, Rosemary… and another lady called Mary!

“It is brilliant that we still keep in touch. I happen to be the last of the girls to retire.”

On July 10, 1976, Mary married Laurence McCullagh, whom she’d met while attending a dance in Cranagh, Tyrone. She moved to his home village of Plumbridge to begin a new life in the heart of the rural village, securing a job at a Gortin surgery under the leadership of Dr Muldoon, now deceased.

“I, too, have fond memories of that time, but it was a different world then,” Mary said. “Doctors were on-call, all of the time, 24/7, catering for the needs of patients throughout their entire district.”

In 1979, Mary gave birth to her first child, Niall, and it was then that she moved to work at Sperrin Family Practice – a practice which amalgamated with her former workplace. It was
there that the kind-hearted lady spent the next four decades of her life, working part-time as a nurse.

As the sands of time seeped by, Mary gave birth to four more children, Roisin (1980), Fiona (1986), Paul (1987) and Cahir (1998).

When asked what Mary loved about her job, there wasn’t one second of hesitation before she responded with the words, ‘I just wanted to help people’.

“I enjoy caring for people,” she said. “And it has given me great pleasure to work alongside the Sperrin staff over the decades.

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