Diploma in Social Work, 1976
Carmel McManus graduated as a Social Worker in June 1976 and began work in September that year for the East Lothian Social Work Department. Sadly she died in a car accident on her way to work on 14th October the same year before she could officially received her Diploma at the graduation ceremony that November.
By the age of 23 years, Carmel had already made a change in the world, because she was one of the co-founders of the first refuges for what were then called 'battered wives' in Belfast, in 1974 with Mary McAleese, the future President of Ireland. She had immense energy when it came to making changes for those she felt were unfairly treated.
If you met Carmel you remembered her simply because she made you feel important. She had a way of including anyone and anybody into her group. This was the core of her skills as a social worker - she loved people, she was passionate about life.
Here are some quotes from letters written to the family after her death, by work colleagues, lecturers and fellow students:
- Ronald T. Henry, Haddington Area Officer, said: "I was struck by her intelligence, her common sense, and her sincere caring attitudes. She also impressed me as someone who would be a strong and giving influence in the team ... Though her time with us was short, our memory of her will be long."
- D.K. Affleck - Acting Divisional Director Lothian Regional Council East Lothian Social Work said: "In the few weeks that Carmel worked with us as a colleague in the area we soon appreciated her vitality, charm, energy, and commitment which she applied to her job as a social worker … she had much to offer in the social work field."
- James Gardner, Director of Social Work, Lothian Regional Council said: "The Social Work service as a whole has suffered a loss … With her friendly personality, concern for others and promising professional ability, she was accepted quickly as a valuable member of the service.’"
- Wendy Paterson, Lecturer in Social Work, The University of Edinburgh, said: "I still think of her and the tragedy of her death so soon after she qualified and had started her job. It affected all of us who knew her very greatly because she was such a warm and vivacious person who brought much to the course and to her fellow students and to the staff ... someone who worked in East Lothian in subsequent years described how staff were still talking about the loss of Carmel so tragically and the impact on the Social Work Department years after her accident."
- Jane McLaren, fellow student said: "Carmel always lifted us with her cheery ways and inspired us with her enthusiasm to learn to help others. The memory of Carmel’s bright personality will always enrich me and will live on very brightly in her absence’. I remember her passionate nature and her laugh. She didn't like any pretensions. A real pleasure to be in her company and good fun."
- Penny Forshaw, fellow student said: "’She was able to establish a warm rapport, and her death is loss not only to those who knew her but to her choose profession. She was a lively person who approached people and matters with directness … an expression of her concern and generosity. Her sense of humour brought many of us together and she was a substantial asset to our group ... who has left a trail of warmth behind her."
- Other tributes came from Dave Hewitson, who said: "I remember Carmel's hands waving about as she spoke. A big personality."; Robin Taylor said: "I remember Carmel explaining to me how in Edinburgh in 1975 you could be friends with anyone whereas in Belfast at that time divisions often divided friends."
Prayers were said by Nora M. Edwards at a service held 18/10/1976 attended by family, staff and students.
Source: Carmel's sister, Bernardine McManus, provided the information for this page, on 14th October 2018 - the anniversary of Carmel's death.