CORK’S oldest woman stunned punters at a local bar as she celebrated making it through the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
It was 104-year-old Mary McGrath’s first social outing since the arrival of coronavirus last March and the owner of The Model Farm Bar and Bistro, Pat Burton, made sure it was one to remember.
The Barrack St resident was welcomed with a bouquet of roses before she celebrated with her first pub lunch since the easing of restrictions.
Mr Burton had paid Mary a previous visit during lockdown to mark her 104th birthday back in April.
Nonetheless, he desperately hoped that they would soon be able to celebrate properly at her favourite Tuesday haunt.
Luckily, the pandemic proved no match for Mary, who made an emotional entrance to celebrate her new-found freedom.
She was joined by Carrigaline man Danny Brosnan, the husband of her cousin Geraldine, who has been accompanying her to the establishment every Tuesday for several years.
Danny and Geraldine had been taking care of Mary during lockdown, delivering Lennox’s take-aways to her door three times a week.
While Mary enjoyed those nights in, she eagerly looked forward to being back in The Model Farm to indulge in her usual Tuesday pleasures.
Despite her impressive vintage, Mary was able to read the menu without glasses.
“They do beautiful beef here,” she said.
Mary seemed largely unfazed by the events of the last few months, but expressed concern for Boris Johnson’s coronavirus battle.
“I was going mad over Boris,” she said.
“He was the only one laughing and look what happened to him. I was looking at it all on the TV but there wasn’t much of it here, thank God.”
Even as a young woman, Mary never attended grand social events, preferring the quiet life.
“There must have been 400 going down to the Arcadia,” she said.
“The style was out of this world. The girls were so beautiful. There were no drugs or drink back then.
“Everyone just had a good time. I was too tired for any of that. I worked very hard, so I liked to be able to sit back and relax. I could do that at the cinema and loved every type of movie.”
Despite the long hours, Mary enjoyed working for Jennings lemonade company.“Cork flooded a lot in those days and we often had to travel to work in a horse and cart,” she said.
Mary said she wasn’t negatively affected by the pandemic, and has fond memories of those who helped her though.
“On my 104th birthday the Gardaí came to visit me and one of them brought out the cake,” she laughed.
“When I was young we were terrified of gardaí. They really had nothing to do because everyone was lovely back then and no real trouble.
“There is no fear of today’s gardaí though. They are very nice people.”
Staff at The Model Farm had pulled out all the stops to give Mary a belated birthday celebration, with lunch on the house and decorations to boot.
She said that during her childhood, people had shied away from birthdays due to the extreme poverty in Cork.
“I never had a birthday,” she admitted.
“There were no birthdays back then. They weren’t even mentioned, because families were too poor to celebrate. I overheard a woman on the bus a few years ago saying: ‘We had nothing, but we had everything’, and that was so true.”
Meanwhile, Pat Burton paid tribute to his favourite customer.
“Mary is a true Cork girl,” he said. “While she comes here every Tuesday, she is much more than a regular. We see her as our special guest.
“When she came here to celebrate her 100th birthday she was the first to arrive and the last to leave that evening.”