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LOCALS in a remote village were in shock last night after revelations that "Queen of Connemara" Bina McLoughlin was a millionaire.

Eccentric shepherdess Bina, 72, lived with her cats and dogs in a little cottage with no water or electricity.

Neighbours on the picturesque village of Maam Cross in Co Galway thought spinster Bina was penniless.

And when she died two weeks ago, they couldn't believe she left her farm - valued at close to pounds 1million - to government Minister Eamonn O Cuiv.

But the politician decided to hand the present back to her family.

Close friend and hotelier Basil Keogh said: "She was the belle at our Bogman's Ball every year, but we never thought she had a penny.

"We heard she left her estate to the Minister, but had no idea it was worth a million.

"She often talked about winning the Lotto, but she didn't need to.

"But she didn't want money. I'd say if she had have won she would have gave the money away."

Basil, owner of the local Peacock Hotel said: "She didn't even have running water in the house and she used oil lamps for light.

"She was one hell of a woman and she'll be sadly missed in Connemara.

"What a life she has led - she was just like royalty to us.

"It won't be the same when we stage events like the Bogman's Ball and Bina is not there.

"They are saying she was a millionaire, but she did not want money, all she wanted was to live life to the full.

"But she didn't need anything. She was just one of those people who have a special something. She was a queen by name and by nature, she lived for her animals."

Bina, who never drank or smoked, was a great singer and no social event in Connemara was complete without her.

She called herself Ireland's only shepherdess and was interviewed by Gay Byrne.

Although a teetotaller, she made poitin and sold it locally.

She was unmissable in her colourful outfits which usually included a striped sweater and strings of pearls.

A fire in Bina McLoughlin's house in January 1995 destroyed most of her possessions.

Her guard dog Peteen became a hero when he carried her pet kittens from the burning house.

Bina shot to fame when she first started to attend the famous Bogman's Ball.

She once posed proudly with Eamonn O Cuiv and Bertie Ahern at the opening.

Hotel owner Mr Keogh said: "She was as relaxed as a Hollywood star in front of the cameras."

Bina, who farmed 200 acres at Leenane, was a fanatical Fianna Fail supporter, but Minister O Cuiv had as special place in her heart.

She loved his grandfather, Eamonn de Valera, for putting an end to evictions by British landlords.

Bina said before she died that she hoped Eamonn would one day be Taoiseach.

She said: "There was nothing done around here until Eamonn was elected.

"I hope I'll long enough to see him elected Taoiseach."

Minister O Cuiv insisted her land should go to Bina's two sisters Bridget and Lena, who live in London.

During a recent election campaign she went around canvassing with a photo of the minister pinned to her jumper.

Mr Keogh said: "The Bogman's Ball will not be the same without her, she was such a character."


SUPPORT:; Bina with Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Minister O Cuiv last year; POPULAR: Bina with Culchie of the Year in 1997; SHEPHERDESS: Bina leads her flock beside her home in Leenane; NO1 FAN:; Bina with Eamonn O Cuiv. 'I hope that he'll be Taoiseach some day'
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Mar 1, 2001
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