Couple served Ireland and East Africa in most positive of ways

Marjorie and Michael Cawdery
Marjorie and Michael Cawdery

A funeral service will take place this afternoon (Thursday) in Drumcree Parish Church for Portadown couple Michael and Marjorie Cawdery.

The husband and wife, both 83, were found murdered in their Upper Ramone Park home on May 26.

They served East Africa and Ireland (north and south) in the most positive of ways.

Michael’s distinguished career focused on veterinary pathology, while his wife started her career as a highly-respected secretary.

In their later years, they were directors of their own company, Cawnel Limited, which serviced many veterinary pharmaceutical companies seeking licences for their products. Michael also became a patient reviewer, a recent initiative by the prestigious British Medical Journal, aimed at improving the relevance and of its research for patients.

Mr Cawdery was an international figure in the field of veterinary pathology, and his wife was the archetypical ‘woman behind the man’. Their murders a fortnight ago at their Upper Ramone Park home have been viewed, in Portadown and beyond, as a purposeless and savage act.

Both were 83, and far from retiring from active life, their company was their way of easing into their advancing years – still contributing to society, but doing so on their own terms and at their own pace.

They were both born in 1933, Michael in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, and Marjorie in Dublin. He was sent to Ireland when 14 to be educated at Portora Royal School, Enniskillen, and then to Trinity College, Dublin where he gained a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science (Vet) Degrees.

These were followed by degrees and further qualifications from the London School of Tropical Medicine, the University of Wurzburg (Germany), the University of Florida (Fellowship) and the Open University (BA Hons in Maths).

He was also awarded a United Nations Fellowship under the International Atomic Energy Agency to study the uses of radioisotopes in veterinary research. And later, settled in Ireland, he was honoured in 2011 by President Mary McAleese, along with other distinguished Irish veterinary figures in recognition of having qualified in Veterinary Medicine for over 50 years.

The first 10 years of his career were spent in Uganda in various high-level roles, culminating as the Senior Veterinary Pathologist in the Department of Veterinary Services. One of his research subjects was trypanosomiasis, or sleeping sickness, which is carried by the Tsetse fly and affects both domestic animals and humans. This involved travel to other East African countries, but it was in the Ugandan city of Entebbe, famed for the 1976 airport raid, that he met his future wife.

Marjorie was educated in Dublin’s Wesley College, one of the few female students there at a time when co-education was unusual in Ireland.

She preferred practical subjects and did a catering course in order to help in a family-run hotel in Bray, Co Wicklow. However, this did not pose enough of a challenge, so she retrained in secretarial skills and, following this successfully, obtained a job with the British Colonial Civil Service in Uganda. Marjorie always loved the adventure of new places, something she has passed on to her children.

They were wed in 1962, and this part of their life up to 1965, as a newly-married couple, was to provide many stories and memories for them both, which were often recalled at family events. They decided to return to Ireland in 1965, two years after the first of their family of three was born. Marjorie had travelled to Ireland to give birth to Shirley, and when they returned permanently to Ireland, Graham and Wendy followed. The couple are also survived by sons-in-law Brian and Charles and grandchildren Peter, Calum, Alex and Tasha. Michael also leaves siblings Paddy and Sally, while Marjorie is survived by brother Ned.

Back in Ireland, Michael worked as senior (and then principal) research officer for the Agricultural Institute of Ireland (now known as Teagasc), in several centres in Counties Mayo, Leitrim and Meath. At first, they lived near Claremorris, Co Mayo but following relocation to Ballinamore, Co. Leitrim, they moved north of the border to Lisbellaw, County Fermanagh, where they lived for 20 years.

As the family were happily settled in Lisbellaw, Michael chose to commute daily. When his post was again relocated, this time to Co Meath, Michael’s solution to the prospect of an impossible commute was to acquire a caravan for use during the working week. This was an example of his innovative approach to life’s problems.

Michael took early retirement in 1989 but this did not end his professional life. He set up with Marjorie and Shirley a consultancy company, Cawnel, and this functioned for a number of years providing companies with Michael’s expertise in licencing of veterinary pharmaceuticals.

They moved to Portadown in 1993 where they lived happily close to their children and grandchildren. Michael’s world was mainly his work and his family, while Marjorie enjoyed pastimes like gardening, painting landscapes and art classes. However, without Marjorie’s constant companionship and support in their 55-year marriage, Michael freely acknowledged that he would not have achieved so much.

The funeral service is on Thursday at Drumcree Parish Church, with the Rector, Rev Gary Galway officiating, 
followed by a private committal.