Young town-born mother (42) dies in New Zealand

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A YOUNG Portadown woman who emigrated to New Zealand 13 years ago - just after she was married at Bethany Free Presbyterian Church - has died in Auckland after a long illness. She was 42.

The death of Myfanwy Leslie (nee Jones) is profoundly felt by her extended family and friends in Portadown, and is the latest in a series of tragedies they have had to face over the years.

She revered her Portadown roots, and when it was known that all hope for recovery from her cancer had gone, her sister-in-law Diane Murdoch and great friend Shirley Buckley travelled to New Zealand to help husband Paul care for her in her final days. She leaves two young children, son Gwyllyn (9) and daughter Guinevere (5). And in Portadown, she is survived by her mother, Mrs Margaret Jones, with her father Mike having died in February 2010.

Myfanwy also leaves two brothers - Ronald Murdoch (Portadown) and Brian Murdoch (Montana), but interwoven within the family are tragedies that they have borne with great courage, and - in Mrs Jones’ words - “with the help of our deep Christian faith”.

Mr and Mrs Jones were both married twice, their respective spouses having died young and left them with growing families. Mrs Jones’ first married name was Murdoch and when her husband Hunter perished in a drowning accident in Lough Ross near Crossmaglen in 1965, she was left with three sons, Ronald, Tony and Brian, whose ages ranged from four to nine months. To add to her grief, Tony, then 40, drowned while deep sea diving in California - to where he had emigrated - in 2003.

Meanwhile, Mike’s first wife died of cancer, leaving him with son Keith and daughter Sharon. Keith remained in the Newry area with an uncle to pursue a farming career, while Sharon joined the extended family in Portadown after Mike and Margaret met and married and settled in Portadown - Mrs Jones lives at Knock Road in the Knocknamuckley area.

Sadly, Sharon passed away - also from cancer - just a month before her dad in 2010, and Mrs Jones recalled that although Sharon was her stepdaughter, he loved her as dearly as any daughter. Myfanwy was the only child that Mike and Margaret had together, and she feels the loss very deeply.

Myfanwy was educated at Tullygally Primary School, Killicomaine Junior High and at Portadown College, from where she entered the University of Ulster (Jordanstown) and emerged with a Bachelor of Arts, Masters and Doctorate in marketing a finance.

She worked with a Bangor company, but remained living in Portadown, where she met her future husband Leslie through Portadown Rugby Club, who was a New Zealander and coached the young hopefuls at the rugby club.

They were married 13 years ago and immediately moved down under where Myfanwy’s bubbly, extrovert personality suited the NZ ethos perfectly. They settled on North Island near Auckland where she worked in marketing until the stress of bringing up a family and her high-powered job proved too much and she plumped for family life.

Brother Ronald said, “Myfanwy felt that the stress was partly responsible for her cancer, and advised us to take things easy. It overwhelmed her at the end.”

Her parents visited her every year, and Mrs Jones continued that tradition after her husband died. A tape recording of the funeral service was made in New Zealand and Myfanwy was laid to rest there. The tape will be brought home by Diane and Shirley, and a memorial service is being organised at Bethany Free Presbyterian Church where Shirley’s father, the Rev Kenneth Elliott, is the minister. The tape is for the personal use of the family.

Myfanwy kept in touch with her many Portadown friends in Portadown through Facebook and left them a message to be read after her death.

And one of her mother’s favourite memories was during a visit to Auckland where the famous Treorchy Male Voice Choir from Wales was performing. They sang the great love song ‘Myfanwy’ by Joseph Parry, and Mrs Jones feels that the last verse is particularly poignant now that her daughter has passed on:

‘Myfanwy, may you spend your lifetime

Beneath the midday sunshine’s glow,

And on your cheeks O may the roses

Dance for a hundred years or so.

Give me your hand, my sweet Myfanwy,

But one last time, to say “farewell”.’

“We were so moved by that choir of 200 or so,” Mrs Jones recalled. “it’s a great love story, and the words are so fitting.”