Ellie was born in Belfast to Bridget Ferris and was ‘unofficially’ fostered to her paternal grandparents.
Bridget was a Catholic and became pregnant to a Protestant, displeasing her two brothers who refused to let Bridget marry him. To avoid the shame of becoming pregnant out of wedlock she gave Ellie to Granny Doyle and paid her a monthly amount to look after her.
Granny Doyle had seven miscarriages and her only son, Joe, was quite a bit older than Ellie who learned she was adopted from one of the girls she was playing with in the street when she was about 12.
Although a Protestant, Granny Doyle agreed to Bridget’s request to raise Ellie as Catholic.
Ellie never saw a photo of her mother until she was 80 and it was a lovely moment; not much was said but the photo was put in a prominent place. She remembered seeing a lady watching her as a child in the playground and not realising until she saw the photo that it was her mother.
When she was 18, Ellie married Paddy during wartime; there was no wedding dress, no big party, just everyday clothes and one photo. They moved into a little two-bed council flat in Waterford Street, Belfast, with Granny and Grandad.
Paddy was a big dreamer and the couple had hardly been outside Belfast when they made the bold decision to migrate to Australia.
Ellie stayed behind with their four daughters while Paddy found work and accommodation in Adelaide. They lived on rations obtained from food coupons and Ellie became a wizard at managing on next to nothing. Her only contact with Paddy was one letter a month.
When it was time for Ellie and the girls to leave for Australia, Granny did not want them to go and could not bear to say goodbye.
Paddy had a house in Kintore Street, Thebarton, when his family arrived. He had two or three jobs, carrying a ladder on his bike to paint roofs on his day off.
When new Irish immigrants landed the Taylors would welcome them to the house to board, despite their growing family. They had 11 children: Patrick, Eileen, Bernadette, Margaret, James, Brendan, Pauline, Theresa, Maureen, Gerard and Bridget. The older children recall spending many a Friday night sitting on the floor in the lounge room learning Irish songs.
The Kintore Street home was the family’s pride and joy, and many hours were spent renovating it. Ellie created a very happy house and everyone felt welcome – whether friends, neighbours or family.
She scrimped and stretched every dollar to make sure the children never went hungry; hers was always that last plate she served up.
Ellie’s kindness and love of family was such that she and Paddy sponsored Granny and Grandad Taylor to Australia and they lived with them for a long time.
Her faith in God and devotion to Mary was very special to her. The rosary was her favourite and she always had a set of rosary beads to give to someone.
One of her most common sayings was ‘God has been good to me’.
Paddy died on December 31 1986 and after 53 years as a parishioner at Queen of Angels, Ellie moved to Lockleys to live at the back of her daughter’s home and would go to Mass every day with her ‘neighbours’ Eileen and Ted.
She volunteered at Vinnies for 30 years, with Ted taking her and picking her up every week. Her garage was like a Vinnies depot, and she treated it like her own business.
She was blessed to have family all around her. As well as her 11 children, she is survived by 31 grandchildren, 54 great grandchildren and two great-great grandchildren.
Famous for her apple pie, scones and apricot jam, she was always ready to welcome family and friends with a hug, and warmed the room with her smile. But, as one of her grandsons pointed out at her funeral Mass, she could also ‘put the fear of God into you’ with as little as a sideways look or flick of the tea towel.
Renowned for her Irish brogue and sense of humour, Ellie used to tell her grandchildren that the reason she was on earth for so long was because ‘Grandpa was bribing God to keep her down here just a wee bit longer, so he can drink beers with his mates in peace’.
- Taken from the family’s eulogies.
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