Cork woman: The secret to living to 100 is...

A nap from 2pm to 3pm, mass every day, and a positive outlook on life — those are the ingredients to a long life — so Blarney woman Peg Curtin tells CHRIS DUNNE
Cork woman: The secret to living to 100 is...
Peg Curtin (nee Margaret Morrissey), originally from Cork City, celebrating her 100th birthday at Oaklodge Nursing Home, Cloyne.Picture: John Hennessy

BLARNEY woman and centenarian Peg Curtin, nee Morrissey, has friends in high places.

The 100-year-old, a resident at East Cork care home, Oaklodge, recently found out she has links to a former U.S President.

“When the Morrissey relations came along to celebrate my 100th birthday here on November 21, one of them mentioned that they had done the family tree, tracing the family history, and that we were related to President Reagan,” says Peg, aka, Margaret Mary Morrissey, who gave an impromptu speech on her big day and sang a song or two as well.

“Isn’t that something!” says Peg, who at 100 years old is hale and hearty.

Peg Curtin, (nee Margaret Morrissey), originally from Cork City ) celebrating her 100th birthday at Oaklodge Nursing Home, Cloyne.Picture: John Hennessy
Peg Curtin, (nee Margaret Morrissey), originally from Cork City ) celebrating her 100th birthday at Oaklodge Nursing Home, Cloyne.Picture: John Hennessy

It is a big deal.

“It is a very big deal,” agrees Peg, delighted with life. “I’m connected to a man who was President of the United States of America!”

It is quite something that Peg has had need of very little medical intervention during her long and happy life. The reason? She believes whole-heartedly in divine intervention.

“God is my best buddy!” she says smiling.

“I prayed all my life. I believe in the power of prayer and going to Mass. I go to mass every day.”

She was also blessed with a happy marriage to Laurence, who passed away in 1995.

“I met him at the Arcadia dance hall in Cork,” says Peg, who had five siblings and who is the only surviving member of her immediate family.

“We were very happy together. We got married in 1942 during World War Two. After living in Limerick for a while, we moved to Blarney and we settled there, raising our five children, Edith, twins Phyllis and Sheila, Paddy and Joy.”

Sadly, Peg lost two of her children, Edith in 2011, and Shiela in 2017.

“Mam’s faith was always her passion,” says Peg’s daughter, Phyllis.

“She was always a very devout Catholic and she donated generously to the church all her life. And she is still very involved with the church to this day.”

Peg paced herself.

Peg Curtin, (nee Margaret Morrissey), originally from Cork City ) celebrating her 100th birthday at Oaklodge Nursing Home, Cloyne.Picture: John Hennessy
Peg Curtin, (nee Margaret Morrissey), originally from Cork City ) celebrating her 100th birthday at Oaklodge Nursing Home, Cloyne.Picture: John Hennessy

“Mam always had a nap between 2pm and 3pm every day, no matter what,” says Phyllis.

“And she kept active. Reading was a great hobby of hers and she loves meeting people. She’s very chatty.”

Peg knows her own mind.

“Mam was always very independent,” says Phyllis.

“And she lived independently until the age of 98.”

Peg also likes her style. Phyllis and Joy bought their mother a lovely new dress to wear for her 100th birthday.

“It’s gorgeous,” says Peg.

“The colours in the dress are really beautiful. I love it. I looked very glamorous on my birthday! I was just amazed at the turn-out.

“All my family and grandchildren came to enjoy the day with me. My relations travelled from Dungarvan and Waterford.

“All the staff here made my birthday a very special occasion. It was really lovely.

“And I got lots of lovely presents. I never expected such a mighty reception.”

A painting by Gillian Cussen of Peg Curtin, aged 100.
A painting by Gillian Cussen of Peg Curtin, aged 100.

She loves the portrait that Cork artist Gillian Cussen painted for her, to mark Peg’s amazing milestone reaching the age of 100 years old. It is a good likeness.

“I suppose it is,” says Peg, examining the portrait close-up.

“And the painting is a lovely keepsake.”

She has another valuable keepsake.

“I got the letter from the Irish President himself!” says Peg. “Michael D wrote to me from the Arás!”

The honorary cheque given to all Irish citizens who reach 100 years, €2,540, is safely in Peg’s bank account.

But it’s her good health all her life which has made her rich beyond measure.

“My mother always had great health,” says Phyllis.

“She always took her vitamins and she was very tuned in to what she should be eating, having a healthy diet with lots of fruit and veg.”

Peg, a former librarian, who has 13 grand-children, had another valuable asset — a positive outlook on life.

“Nothing worries me,” she says.

“And I never believed in rowing with people. Life is too short.”

Does she like living near the sea now?

“I moved into an apartment in the city when I left my house in Blarney,” says Peg.

“I was nearer to my grandchildren and to the church. God is very important to me.

“When you are on the planet for 100 years, you get used to anything!”

How does a mere mortal live to be 100?

“Living a good life,” says Peg. “Not having too many stresses in life, or worrying about things too much.

“Looking after yourself. I smoked a bit in my younger days and I took an odd drink, but very little.”

Peg, who was born in Cork to Paddy and Edith Morrissey on November 21, 1919, is intent on enjoying her centenary year.

“I love being around people, and the people here at Oaklodge couldn’t be nicer,” says Peg.

“And I can sing in the choir at church every day.”

What is her favourite hymn?

“I sang How Great Thou Art twice on my birthday!” she says. “It is a beautiful hymn.”

With that, this great lady, who has friends in lots of places, is off to 3pm mass, still enjoying her favourite and precious pursuit at 100 years old.

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