Video: Cork's oldest woman shares the secret to longevity on her 104th birthday

Video: Cork's oldest woman shares the secret to longevity on her 104th birthday
Lola and her sister Isabel O’Mahoney with a birthday card for Mary McGrath who is 104 today. Picture: Clare Keogh

Speaking to The Echo, Mary McGrath from Barrack Street, cited a stress-free mindset as her best life advice.

"I never worried and so long as I was working I couldn’t care less," she said.

At the age of just 16, Mary started work at the Jennings Soda Water Factory, making sauces and lemonade - a job she stayed in for over 30 years.

"It was tough work, but I enjoyed it," she said.

Despite the current challenges of the pandemic, Mary's loved ones ensured she celebrated her birthday in style with a 'physically distant' birthday party outside her house today.

Happy 104th Birthday to Mary McGrath, of O'Leary Place, Barrack Street, Cork who was born on Easter Monday 1916. She enjoyed a 'social distancing' party with neighbours and friends and the Lord Mayor Cllr John Sheehan and Lady Mayoress Aedamar Sheehan visited her to wish her a Happy Birthday on behalf of citizens of Cork City. Picture: Larry Cummins
Happy 104th Birthday to Mary McGrath, of O'Leary Place, Barrack Street, Cork who was born on Easter Monday 1916. She enjoyed a 'social distancing' party with neighbours and friends and the Lord Mayor Cllr John Sheehan and Lady Mayoress Aedamar Sheehan visited her to wish her a Happy Birthday on behalf of citizens of Cork City. Picture: Larry Cummins

Family, friends and neighbours joined the Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr John Sheehan and the Lady Mayoress, Aedamar Sheehan to celebrate the occasion. 

The party was organised by her friends at South Parish Old Folks Club, her nephew, Danny, her niece Geraldine Brosnan and by Ballyphehane Day Care and Ballyphehane/Togher Community Development Programme which she regularly attends and describes as 'the club'.

A previously planned birthday celebration was postponed due to the Covid-19 restrictions but Mary didn't want it postponed any further so it took place today.

Mary said she also attributes her health and longevity to having wonderful friends.

Chatting with Mary are her friends Joan Goggin and Brenda O'Driscoll. Picture: Larry Cummins
Chatting with Mary are her friends Joan Goggin and Brenda O'Driscoll. Picture: Larry Cummins

"I've always had lots of friends and lots of friends from different backgrounds. 

"I'm part of the Ballyphehane Friendship Group and take part in the community education classes at the Day Care Centre where we have art, music and get to meet with lots of younger people too," she said.

"I just enjoy people and like to stay connected with people. 

"I would have loved to have invited everyone into the house for a cup of tea after the celebration today," she said.

Wishing her a happy birthday on behalf of the citizens of Cork, the Lord Mayor said it was an honour to attend the celebrations.

"Mary has long been at the heart of her local community and at the heart of activities in the community and is loved by young and old in that area. She really is a local legend. 

"Community spirit has burned bright in recent weeks and it's fantastic to physically watch a community rally around and celebrate one of their older neighbours," he said.

Richard T Cooke of the South Parish Old Folks Club, who performed one of Mary's favourite songs, 'Up the Coal Quay', at her birthday party, praised Mary's charisma and exceptional character. 

"Mary is a member of South Parish Old Folks Club for over 50 years and she has been an inspiration to all of us – she’s like the Queen Mother!"

Richard T Cooke of 'South Parish Old Folks Club' was on guitar for a sing-song and Happy Birthday singing. Picture: Larry Cummins
Richard T Cooke of 'South Parish Old Folks Club' was on guitar for a sing-song and Happy Birthday singing. Picture: Larry Cummins

Mary played a major role in the very popular singing group: 'The Swinging 60s Choir'.

For almost 20 years Mary and the choir performed in local festivals, community events, community centres, hospitals and retirement homes. 

The group also recorded a song titled 'The Over 60s Song - It’s Great To Up And About' for Paddy O’Brien, activist for the elderly and founder of the Over 60s Talent Competition.

Wishing her a very happy birthday, Mr O'Brien praised Mary's "wonderful outlook on life".

Young neighbours (single household) with posters made for Mary. Picture: Larry Cummins
Young neighbours (single household) with posters made for Mary. Picture: Larry Cummins

"Mary is an exceptional lady. Her years have gone on but Mary never got old. 

"She has a great positive mindset and is an example for all elderly people.

"Mary never married, she told me that she was always happy in her own company," he said.

At the age of 104, Mary still lives independently. 

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