Lorna M. Kelly – November 1924 to June 2022

In the same quiet determined manner that she had lived all of her 98 years Lorna Kelly fought another battle last month. Sadly this was to be her last one and she quietly passed away on the afternoon of 2nd June 2022, surrounded by her loving family.

At the same time Sandymount has lost a bedrock of its existence with the passing of this stalwart guardian of all things Dublin 4, Sandymount Strand and the Environment. For 60 years Lorna Kelly has been an active member of the community, local campaigner and member of Sandymount and Merrion Residents Association (SAMRA).

Lorna was born in Woolwich in November 1924 and lived in nearby Plumstead with her parents Frank and Jessi Robins and her brother Denis. Located in southeast London close to Greenwich it was noted for its picturesque main street and Plumstead Common, but it is also close to the London docks which meant that during World War 2 it was subject to frequent bombing (77 bombs were recorded as hitting this neighbourhood alone). Indeed on one occasion whilst visiting her parents Lorna and her family were forced to shelter under the sturdy kitchen table during an Air Raid when a bomb took out the gable wall of the house – her only comment made was that the “bombs were a bit too close!”
Lorna’s mother had previously worked in Woolwich Arsenal and her father was an engineer who co-incidentally worked on the design and commissioning of Dublin’s Pigeon House power station. He fought in World War 1 serving in the Royal Artillery and seeing action in Ypres and Passchendaele. His self-stated proud achievement was not of surviving the Great War, but of successfully bringing his horse through the entire conflict safely.

Lorna attended Anglican Sunday School in Plumstead and later won a scholarship to Kings Warren Grammar School, now known as Plumstead Manor. In the early part of the War she and her brother, Denis, were evacuated to Maidstone, Kent and during the Battle of Britain they regularly witnessed dogfights over the fields between RAF and Luftwaffe fighters. Later she would also witness seeing V1 Doodlebugs bomb London, and bomb crews disarming unexploded bombs.
Denis went on to serve in the RAF as an aircraft engineer seeing action in Burma where he was mentioned in despatches for notable acts while fighting the Japanese invasion, including unloading the bomb bay of a bomber while it was on fire – so that the bombs wouldn’t explode and kill his comrades.

Lorna returned to London and trained as a nurse at Moorfields eye hospital (in London’s east end) during the London blitz – rising to the position of a Theatre Sister. As a nurse during the Blitz she was actively involved in caring for casualties, some of whom she had crawled through rubble on bomb sites to rescue, an all too frequent occurrence for her.

In January 1951 she came to Dublin on a visit to friends and was taken by the clean air, no rationing, and being away from the war. She decided to stay and worked as a freelance nurse, working in the Adelaide Hospital and Portobello Nursing Home. She also met her future husband, Kevin, at a dance in the Four Provinces Ballroom and after they married initially lived in Killester before the family (now including their sons David, Esmonde and Adrian) moved to Sandymount in 1962.

Seeing the ongoing industrial uses that were operating on Sandymount Strand and the adjacent Poolbeg peninsula, together with the pollution caused by large scale dumping of industrial waste and civic refuse, the potential for the destruction of the amenity that is Sandymount Strand was all too evident to Lorna, and she joined Sandymount Residents Association (later to become Sandymount and Merrion Residents Association) – a decision that was to become a 60-year vocation to protect the area and the environment, in her roles as the Association’s Public Relations and Planning Officer.

With fellow Sandymount Residents including Jack Torpey, Harry Mapother, David Baynham, and latterly Joan MacArthur and Catherine Cavendish, she campaigned for the preservation of the Poolbeg peninsula and the Strand. Over the intervening six decades this widened to include numerous other environmental causes such as the preservation of Sandymount Green from its proposed destruction into a traffic roundabout in the 1960’s, the Dublin Bay Preservation Association, Special Amenity Area Orders for the Sandymount and Merrion Strands, the Association of Combined Residents Associations during the 1970’s, campaigns against and Planning Appeals regarding proposed Oil Refineries and LPG Gas cavern storage facilities in Dublin Bay, the Dublin Motorway and Roads Action Group against a planned motorway across Dublin Bay, the Incinerator, achieving recognition of Sandymount Village as an Architectural Conservation Area, the development of the Promenade and the Irishtown Nature Reserve, and appointed representative on the Dublin City Council Community Forum for strategic engineering and river basins water quality. Always known for her fighting spirit, together with Joan McArthur, Lorna challenged aspects of the design of Ringsend Wastewater Treatment Plant and following Supreme Court challenges also established a legal right for residents to challenge planning decisions on environmental grounds, without legal costs risk – a right that has been influential on subsequent cases over the past nine years.

Meanwhile, Lorna was also active in the community readily helping anyone with a problem. On one occasion an elderly resident who did not qualify for social assistance mentioned it to Lorna, who immediately took up the case. Lorna noted that this frugal resident had savings which were at a marginal level above the threshold that had led to her disqualification. Lorna’s solution was to go shopping with the lady and buy a good winter coat out of the savings – in one stroke the savings threshold was removed, the lady had a warm coat for the winter and she also qualified for the social assistance she so much needed! Elsewhere she volunteered as a Nurse with Brabazon Nursing Home.

In latter years, whilst still as active in the community as ever, Lorna was awarded The Sean Moore Community Award in 2003, awarded The Dublin City Unsung Heroes Award in 2006, awarded The Sandymount Tidy Towns Lifetime Achievement In 2016, awarded The Dublin City Council “Jack Torpey” Award In 2017.

Meanwhile at home Lorna was equally as active, involved in gardening, baking, photography, family trips to Venice and Ostende, and her role as both a Grandmother and Great Grandmother.

It is said that life is not a rehearsal and we should all seize the day – Lorna Kelly definitely lived up to those ideals and made sure she got as much out of life as she could, at the same time leaving an indelible mark on the environment, her community and all those around her. She will be sadly missed by all.