“You’d walk into a room and find Mum on the floor building Lego with the lads, or doing something with Carla, or reading stories. She adored them all.”
The grieving father said Marie had idolised her grandchildren, including his own three children, Conor (9), Darragh (7) and Carla (3), who were killed in January 2020 by their mother, Deirdre Morley.
She was later found not guilty of murder by reason of insanity.
In an exclusive interview with the Sunday World, Andrew says: “Mum lived a life full of happiness alongside my father, Brendan, and was so good-natured that she was a joy to be around.
“She would have been 82 next week and she had a good, long, fulfilling life when you compare the children’s short lives.”
Andrew, who is originally from Donegal town and lives in Newcastle, Co Dublin, recalled happier times when he would visit his parents, Marie and Brendan, at their family home in Donegal with his children. “Mum adored all her grandchildren, including Conor, Darragh and Carla.
“We were up and down to her and Dad all the time, and as soon as we walked in the door she was off with the kids,” he says.
“You’d walk into a room and find Mum on the floor building Lego with the lads, or doing something with Carla, or reading stories. She adored them all.
“It was Granny Marie who bought the two lads (Conor and Darragh) their first guitars, and sure then the lads spent the whole weekend writing songs.
“They called their band The String Tigers, and I’ve since put up a few clips of them on Conor’s Clips on YouTube.
“So Granny Marie can lay claim to inspiring the two lads to set up their band. She absolutely loved being a grandmother.”
Marie developed Alzheimer’s and her health deteriorated in the last two years.
“At the time of the children’s funeral I could see that she was devastated — we all were,” Andrew says.
“I don’t know what impact the tragedy had on her. I suppose none of us will ever know. The decline at the end came fairly rapidly, but when the kids died she would have been aware of everything.”
Since losing his children, Andrew has set up a charity, As Darragh Did, and posts videos of them on Conor’s Clips on YouTube to keep their memories alive.
This year, Irish superstar Daniel O’Donnell performed a concert in Newcastle for the As Darragh Did charity and raised a phenomenal €100,000.
“Before Alzheimer’s took its grip on her, mum was aware of the projects in their memory when I started them, and she was very proud of them,” Andrew says.
“As a mum to myself and my siblings growing up, she was just fantastic.
“She worked all her life in the hospitality trade. My two brothers and my sister and myself all, at various stages, followed her into hospitality and I stayed in the business.
“She worked in St Ernan’s Hotel outside Donegal town for quite a few years.
“Letters used to come from America from people that had stayed in the hotel telling her how much they enjoyed meeting her.
“If the hospitality industry was suited to anybody it was really suited to Mum. She worked mainly as a waitress and it’s the job that a lot of young people fall into.
“The amount of young people who knew her from having worked alongside her was just phenomenal.
“I met so many people at her funeral that I didn’t know and they told me, ‘I worked with your mother, she was lovely and she really took me under her wing. It was my first ever job.’
“She was a genuinely very loving and friendly person. It was in her blood that sort of friendliness and hospitality.
“So many people knew her because she loved being involved in everything. She was still making friends into her late 70s and early 80s. She was just that sort of a woman.”
Marie’s loving husband, Brendan, had been caring for her right to the end.
“Dad had looked after Mum with great support from the Alzheimer’s Society, and friends and family in Donegal, and we are very grateful to all of them,” Andrew says.
“Mum and Dad had been 60-odd years together.
“Mum’s funeral Mass was in the same church where they had got married some 60 years previously.
“Their wedding anniversary was at the start of September.
“I often think about the excitement of Conor, Darragh and Carla at seeing Granny Marie again, and it gives me comfort.
“I imagine that she was met by them with a pile of storybooks and that the hugs and cuddles haven’t stopped since.”