My grandmother, Eileen Dooley, who has died aged 94, was a social worker turned sociology teacher who spent most of her life in London after moving to Britain from her native Ireland as a child.
The eldest of five children (a sixth died in infancy), Eileen was born in Cappagh, County Tipperary, to Patrick Barry-Ryan, a doctor, and his wife, Joanna (nee Ryan). Her father died after a road accident when she was nine, an event that affected her profoundly. As a result she was sent with her sisters to Britain to a Catholic boarding school, the Convent of Notre Dame, in Teignmouth, Devon, where she eventually became head girl.
After school Eileen studied sociology at the London School of Economics during the second world war, during which time the LSE was evacuated to Cambridge. After graduating she worked in London for Sainsbury’s as their in-house almoner (social worker) and in 1951 she married Denis Dooley, an anatomist who had worked under Alexander Fleming on the development of penicillin.
Moving to Wimbledon, south-west London, Eileen continued her work at Sainsbury’s while bringing up two children. However, she eventually decided on a switch into education, and took up a job teaching sociology at the St Thomas More school in Chelsea, where she was also the school counsellor.
At that time she also became a magistrate in the juvenile court, in which role she always prioritised the emotional well-being of any children involved. Subsequently she became an active member of the Catholic Prisoners’ Family Charity (now Pact).
Her final teaching position was at the Ursuline Convent school, Wimbledon, from which she retired in 1986. She then mentored and supported young people whose circumstances were less privileged than her own. She was also a familiar face at Irish community centres across London.
A lover of France and the French language, an enthusiasm that had begun during a spell in the country in her late teens, she took an A-level in French in her 70s. Though an active woman she never did any physical exercise, and if asked why not, would reply: “I just don’t do movement.”
Denis died in 2010. She is survived by her children, Michael and Johanna, and her sister Patricia.