Alice Kennedy from Clonaslee meets the Queen in 2014
The death has taken place of Laois woman Alice Kennedy who was a champion of the Irish community in Britain after contracting the coronavirus.
Originally from Clonaslee, Ms Kennedy (née Culleton) moved from Shracullen to Kentish Town 58 years ago and immersed herself in the Irish community in London through her roles with the Irish Elderly Advice Network and her beloved Irish Pensioner’s Choir.
She would go on to chair the network which cares for older Irish emigrants living alone and also served as secretary of the Irish Pensioners Choir for many years.
Co-Director of the Irish Elderly Advice Network and close friend of Ms Kennedy, Nora Mulready, told the Leinster Express that Ms Kennedy was “the life and soul of everything in the Irish community in London”.
“The outpouring of love for her over the last number of days has been a real testament of what she meant to people over here.
“People knew she was ill and were following her progress, checking up on her. At one point, we all got news that she had improved. In fact, Alice was texting people herself because the doctors said she was doing well and had improved overnight.
“The last text message I got from her said, ‘The doctors say I’m doing well, thank God’. That was probably three days before she passed and she just rapidly declined after that.
“She was still right at the absolute top of her game even at 83 years of age. Bright as a button, you’d get nothing past our Alice. She always dressed so well and stood so perfectly upright. It was her smile though, everyone that has paid tributes has commented on it,” said Ms Mulready.
“She was a tiny woman, but she was massive in every other way.
“She was deeply involved in the Irish Pensioner’s Choir and they had so many adventures, including recording songs with Foster and Allen - which was hilarious and fantastic. There’s a video on Youtube and right in the middle, you’ll see Alice. As always."
When she emigrated in 1962, Alice worked in Woolworths for seven years, then in John Lewis on Oxford Street until her retirement. Her husband was Frank Kennedy, whose remains were laid to rest in Clonaslee.
She kept in touch with family in Clonaslee and nearby Kilcormac but for her, London was as much her home.
"It’s lovely to go home, but when I go back to Kentish Town it’s like coming home too,” Alice told the Leinster Express in 2014 after she met the Queen in Buckingham Palace.
The Irish Times reported that the Irish Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Adrian O’Neill, said the Irish Embassy in London was “deeply saddened” by Ms Kennedy’s passing.
The London Irish Centre paid tribute also, “We are deeply sad to hear of her sudden passing. Through Alice’s work with the Irish Elderly Advice Network and the London Irish Pensioner’s Choir, both based at the London Irish Centre, she was a much-loved regular around the building.
“Alice’s unexpected passing is a heartbreaking case of the special vulnerability of the older Irish in London to Covid-19, and a reminder for all us to do everything we can to keep the vulnerable, safe, supported and at home. Our London Irish Centre team will never forget Alice’s bright smile and sense of fun, and we send our sincere condolence to her loved ones.”