Maud Kells funeral: Missionary was a 'Northern Irish national treasure'

The coffin of Maud Kells is piped out of Molesworth Presbyterian Church in Cookstown after her funeral.  Pic: Declan Roughan/PressEye
The coffin of Maud Kells is piped out of Molesworth Presbyterian Church in Cookstown after her funeral. Pic: Declan Roughan/PressEye

Maud Kells, from Cookstown, Co Tyrone, was a missionary midwife in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) for decades, travelling there nearly every year since 1968.

Ms Kells survived being shot at her home in the town of Mulita in January 2015.

She was 75 when she was hit at point blank range after grabbing hold of the gun as a bandit opened fire during an attempted robbery.

Twelve hours after the shooting Ms Kells was airlifted out of Mulita and spent several weeks being treated at Nyankunde hospital.

Ms Kells received an OBE for her work, which included overseeing the building of a maternity hospital, an operating theatre and a school.

During her final visit to the country she was awarded a Medaille du Merite Civique by the governor in Kunda, for services to the DRC.

Emily McKeown, Ms Kell's great-niece, spoke at the funeral at Molesworth Presbyterian Church in Cookstown, and said Ms Kells lived “an amazing life devoted to her faith”.

“However, not only was she a legend in her fields of work, she was also the most incredible and loving person who was admired by all,” she said.

“Widely known as Auntie Maud, she made it her second mission in life to love everyone.”

Ms McKeown said that after the coverage of the shooting in 2015, her great aunt was called a “Northern Irish national treasure”.

“She was widely recognisable around the town, usually marching head down, backpack in place, with see-through umbrella at the ready,” she said.

“She always reasoned it to me by saying, 'well in Africa we have to walk everywhere so if where I'm going is close enough, I'll walk it'.”

Reverend Tom Greer told the service that Ms Kells became well known after being shot in 2015, but that her family would remember the love she had for those who knew her best.

“Perhaps in Christian circles she gained a kind of celebrity status, but she never sat easy with the fame, much preferring to do what she did so well – caring for people who were her family and friends and who mattered so much to her,” he said

“Today I know that you, her family and loved ones, will have many precious memories of her and the love, care and encouragement she provided as a sister, an aunt and a great aunt – things that others will know nothing of, and for those things we thank God.”

Ms Kells' work was carried out through WEC International, an interdenominational mission agency of evangelical tradition.

WEC's former international training director, Phillip Crooks, said the organisation “was privileged to have had Maud as one of its members”.

And he added that as well as her commitment to international aid, Ms Kells remained active in her local community in Tyrone.

“Maud's call was for the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo, but we would do her a great injustice if we were to limit it to that,” he said.

“She had a vision for people without Jesus wherever she went, for whoever she met regardless, her family members, her home town of Cookstown, people she met wherever she went such as her fellow patients in hospital.”