This International Women's Day we remember the achievements of our Late Co-Founder Mary Dunlop.
Mary Dunlop, who died aged 91, was, with Jim Dennehy, a co-founder of Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind, and was for many years president of the organisation.
Her endeavours earned her a People of the Year award in 1981.
Tom Langan, a guide-dog owner since 1978, paying tribute to her work, said: "Mrs Dunlop listened to the blind and visually impaired and built the organisation around them."
She was born on November 25th, 1912, one of the three children of Dr and Mrs Ted Hobart, Blackrock Road, Cork. She was educated in England, returning to Cork to keep house for her widowed father.
She married Robert Andrew Dunlop, then a lieutenant in the Royal Army Service Corps, in 1933. Their daughter Jill was born in 1935, and the family lived in Scotland until the outbreak of the second World War.
Postings to Egypt, Palestine, Libya and Ghana followed, and on her husband's retirement as lieutenant colonel the family settled in Cork.
She always had a great affinity with animals, especially horses, and could communicate with even the most difficult animal. She first became involved in blind welfare through her husband's uncle who was blind. She acquired a German shepherd dog, bred by the British Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, as a family pet. Jan soon showed his intelligence in demonstration work. This prompted her to become a voluntary organiser for the association.
She trained Jan for obedience and demonstration displays to show people how useful a trained dog could be to its owner. As well as demonstrations at agricultural shows throughout the country, including shows at the RDS, Jan also collected money in a box carried on his back. The first fundraising trip, to Bandon in 1964, raised £3. The money was used by the association to bring Irish people to Exeter for training with a guide dog.
An appearance by Jan on the Late Late Show in 1969 gave a boost to the cause of guide dogs for the blind. By 1970 a four-dog demonstration team was travelling the country. Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind was founded in 1976, with the full support and assistance of the British association.
The founding meeting, held at the Mansion House in Dublin and chaired by the broadcaster Jim Sherwin, elected Mary Dunlop as president.
The association was initially based in Drumcondra but in 1981 the headquarters was moved to Hill Farm, Cork.
There, obedience-training classes began, with Mary Dunlop at the helm. The opening of the residential training centre was a major step forward in providing a service encompassing mobility and rehabilitation.
Mary Dunlop paid a final visit to the centre a week before her death. Nick, a German shepherd dog currently in training, caught her eye. Having looked him up and down, she pronounced him a fine specimen and declared that he would make an excellent guide dog.
Predeceased by her husband in 1967, she is survived by her daughter, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Mary Dunlop: born November 25th, 1912; died December 20th, 2003
This piece was originally published in the Irish Times on January 17th 2004 and it is available here .