By: Kathleen Fueston
When you first meet Frances McAneny, you would never guess the ordeal she has been through by speaking to her. She is warm and friendly. She is a woman of influence by her example and the way she chooses to live her life. Frances was born and raised in Northern Ireland in the town of Strabane, just 14 miles south of Derry. Her father was Protestant and her mother was Catholic, but this was never a conflict in her family. She described her early years by saying “we went about our normal life in an abnormal situation.” She and her family were not caught up in the Troubles that were going on, but they were aware of them on a daily basis. She remembers driving with her family when gun shots were fired outside the car. Her father would pull over and they would get out of the car and lay on the ground until the shooting stopped. Then they would get back in and take off on their previous conversation.
As a young adult, Frances worked in Belfast for a time. She worked in a civil servant job which was often a target for combatants. She went through several bomb scares and remembered one time when her office had to be evacuated and they literally had to jump over one of many bombs as they ran out of the building.
|This photo was taken on a wall in Belfast.|
At one point in hospital, she asked about the details of what had happened the day of the shooting and was told she was the only one shot in that incident and the perpetrator was not caught. Her analysis is that the bullet was probably meant for her friend, the police officer, but she was hit instead. In the years since the tragedy there have been speculations as to who pulled the trigger that changed Frances’ life, but no one has been caught or come forward.
|When one spends time with Frances, you quickly feel from her a quiet peace.|
Quote by W. B. Yeats. Photo taken at St. Columb's Cathedral.
Seamus and Frances had to postpone their marriage for over a year. What was to be a rather large affair in the town cathedral was changed to a low profile event of 15 in a small parish close by. Some years passed, but challenges continued. The doctors told her having children could kill her, but their desire to have a child was greater than the risks or worry. A son was born to them in 1975 and they named him Cairan.
|Frances outside the WAVE, the first center she attended|
to work on overcoming her traumatic experience.
Frances continues to have physical challenges from her experience and has had multiple surgeries through the years, but she rallies with each one to continue her life and her work. “I consider everyday a blessing.”
|Frances enjoys helping others by facilitating |
Bead Sessions where participants select bead
that represent important events and people. those
beads are placed a bracelet which helps people
tell their personal story to others.
When asked what she would do if someone was charged with the shooting that nearly took her life she said, “I’ve already forgiven them. They have had to live with this knowledge of what they did all of these years. They have had the harder road, so I forgave them a long time ago. It does me no good to hold on to such negative feelings. Many people who have been victimized by the Troubles want to be known as such. I would rather be known as a survivor.”
Frances is a passionate advocate of peace building and she leads others by her own example. She is a mentor to many and she is a quiet woman of influence. When one speaks of her work at The Junction, Frances says “I must keep doing what I’m doing, hoping that what I’m doing will make a difference. It is baby steps and they get us where we need to go. Be gentle with everybody because it sometimes rubs off on people. Maybe I’m simplistic but I believe we can live in peace.”