Mary’s Story – St Columba’s Hospice Palliative Care, Edinburgh

Mary’s Story

Mary Moriarty, aka the "Queen of Leith" was delighted to receive care fit for royalty.

Mary’s Story image

For the last thirty years, Mary Moriarty has been a ‘well-kent’ face around Leith. From her spell as the publican in one of the Port’s most famous pubs, to the matriarch of the long running Leith Festival, there will hardly be a soul north of the St James’ Quarter who doesn’t know her! 

Mary Moriarty grew up in Corstorphine and moved to Leith in the 80s to take over the Port O’ Leith pub. Today, she sits surrounded by memorabilia from a long and eventful life, dedicated to developing her local community. Mary, known locally as the ‘Queen of Leith’ kindly agreed to tell us about her diagnosis and experience of the Hospice…

“The care I’ve had from the Hospice is absolutely top class, I can’t praise them enough.”

“I was diagnosed with cancer in June last year at the Western General and was referred to the Hospice following a course of radiotherapy. I didn’t have any prior connection or experience of the Hospice at all, I wouldn’t say I had a fixed idea of what it would be like because I’ve never really been ill before. I didn’t know what to expect but whatever expectations I had have been exceeded! The one thing I knew was I wanted to be cared for at home, that was the main thing for me and they’ve helped me do that.”

Home for Mary, and indeed for most people, is all about home comforts, and familiarity. Mary’s house is testament to a life well-lived, her walls are adorned with pictures of her with the great and the good of the Leith of yesteryear, including some now iconic images which have been immortalised into a mural in the Leith Theatre. From her bed, where she now spends most of her days, she has a clear view to a tree her back garden, in which a remarkably well groomed pigeon sits preening itself.

Mary tells us that the bird has been visiting her window for years, and she feeds it religiously. Her “wee friend”, or “the fattest pigeon in Leith” depending on if you listen to Mary or her son Niall, is evidently a character in her daily life, and another reason she is glad to have been able to remain at home, and retain some normality.

Mary continued: “The Hospice team have been coming out to see me for a couple of months now and they are wonderful. I never dreamed I would be looked after the way I have been, I’ve been mollycoddled. I feel lucky because I’m still here, and I’ve still got my lipstick, and I’ve still got my hairbrush and I’ve had splendid care. People are in and out visiting all the time, sometimes it’s like Waverly Station in here! The care I’ve had from the Hospice is absolutely top class, I can’t praise them enough”

Niall Brown, Mary’s son, lives with her and said: “Mum’s wish was to stay here, the Hospice building is just incredible, but she’s always had it in her head that she would want to stay at home. They’ve made that possible, the team have been great, she always has a laugh with them and nothing is too much. I’ve been offered support if I need it, my sister has appreciated the extra help too. In all honesty, we wouldn’t have got to this point without them, for example, mum from the beginning said she didn’t want me to have to help with personal care which is completely understandable. They’ve come in and helped with that side of things ensuring she can maintain her dignity and that’s so important.

Eilidh Moriarty is Mary’s daughter and also helps out with her care, she said: I’ve been a carer for 8 years so I know the community and I have nothing but good things to say about the Hospice. The Hospice at Home team has been really good with my mum. She enjoys the company and shares lots of stories about her time running the Port of Leith, she’s no stranger to an interview, from local papers to National Geographic and she even got a British Empire Medal in 2014.

When asked if she had any advice to anyone worried about a referral to the Hospice, Mary said: “Dinnae worry, go for it and enjoy it. What’s not to feel good about it.”

Mary Moriarty died peacefully at home, surrounded by her loved ones on 3 October 2022. People from across Edinburgh and beyond showed up to pay their respects at a service in South Leith Parish Church on 25 October 2022. Mary will be fondly missed by all who knew her.

You can help us be there for more people like Mary by supporting our Light up a Life appeal here.

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