Blundell, Mary (1859–1930), novelist, better known under the pen name ‘M. E. Francis ’, was born 22 August 1859 at Killiney Park, Co. Dublin, second of four daughters of Michael James Sweetman , a wealthy catholic, and Margaret Sweetman (née Powell), heiress, of Fitzwilliam Sq. Dublin. As a young child she moved with her family to Lamberton Park, Queen's Co. (Laois), where she spent the greater part of her youth. She received her initial education from a series of governesses and, for a brief period, in a convent near Dublin. She became interested in writing while very young, and recalled writing a novel entitled ‘True joy’ at the age of 8. With her sisters, Elinor Sweetman and Agnes (Sweetman) Castle, who became known as a poet and novelist respectively, she began two family magazines: the ‘Ivy Home Magazine’ and ‘Ivy Home Library’. After the death of her father the Sweetmans moved to Brussels in 1873, where she was instructed in painting, music, and languages. From there she began to correspond with Fr Matthew Russell (qv), whom she regarded as a literary mentor, and through him she became a contributor to his journal, the Irish Monthly, in November 1879. During her four-year stay in Belgium she also met her husband Francis Nicholas Blundell, of Crosby Hall, Blundellsands, Lancashire. Having overcome the opposition of her mother, who considered Blundell's finances inadequate, they married in November 1879 and moved to a house on his father's estate. They had two daughters and one son, Francis (1880–1936), MP for Ormskirk 1922–9.
After the sudden death of her husband in 1884, Mary Blundell moved in with her in-laws in Crosby Hall, and began writing in earnest principally to pass the time. What she always regarded as the launch of her career came in 1895 when The Times agreed to serialise her novel A daughter of the soil. This, like so much of her output, drew heavily on her local surroundings for colour and subject matter; however, recollections of Ireland are evident in novels such as Miss Erin (1898), North, south, and over the sea (1902), and Dark Rosaleen (1915). She also wrote plays both individually and in collaboration with Sydney Valentine, and worked with her daughters Margaret and Agnes on several novels from 1924. In her autobiography The things of a child (1918) she focused on her childhood in Ireland. Her work as a whole is determinedly upbeat and wholesome, and is often coloured by a marked religious tone. She moved to Dorset after the death of her father-in-law, and subsequently settled in Mold, Wales. She died 9 March 1930 at her home there, Maes Alyn, and was buried in St Mary's churchyard, Little Crosby, Lancashire.