EVEN after 103 years, every day is still a new adventure for Cork woman Gladys Locke.
As she rides on the Luas it’s not difficult to see why she has become something of a celebrity in her adopted Dublin. Watching a lady of her years braving the crowds of St Stephen’s Green is a sight to behold.
While some might question whether their eyes are deceiving them Gladys has no such complaints.
Just the day before she underwent an eye test only to be told she didn’t require glasses.
“I’m better without them,” she quipped.
There is nothing wrong with her taste buds either. That’s if the strawberry ice-cream in St Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre is anything to go by.
“I get the Luas every day and they all know me. I’m the best free passenger they have. My favourite place to shop is Grafton Street.
I also go to St Stephen’s Green and have a bowl of ice-cream for myself, always strawberry flavoured!”
The odd gossip also goes down well. “There’s always somebody I know. It means you are sure to get the gossip. One of my favourite things to do is sit down on the green and have a chat.”
The bright lights of Dublin city might be enticing for Gladys, but there’s no place like home.
“I’m the oldest resident they’ve ever had and I’m lucky that I’m also the fittest,” the 103-year-old said of Leopardstown Park Hospital.
Never in her wildest dreams did Gladys imagine she would reach such an impressive age.
“The oldest person I’d ever known was my grandfather and he was 98.
I’m very happy and can’t say I’ve anything to complain about. It helps that I’m always on the move.”
The 103-year-old enjoys dressing up for social occasions.
“I don’t buy new clothes anymore but I like to have the best.”
She says her two guilty pleasures are gin and champagne but never together. “We have a get together every Saturday night and are allowed two drinks,” she said. “Music and listening to the news is enjoyable but I’d rather be out. It’s nice to admire the flowers.”
One of the residents, Ciarán, does the gardening around here and sometimes he’ll pick me a rose. He’s lovely.”
Since turning 103 last March Gladys has had the world at her feet. The pensioner even featured on RTÉ’s Joe Duffy Show. Notwithstanding, she has never forgotten her beloved Cork.
“We grew up in Highfield West, College Road. My father opened a business in McCurtain Street called Donaldson’s Camera House. I didn’t work there but my sister and brother did. They did the photography for all the chemists in Cork. When my father died my mother took over the business. She was a wonderful woman.”
At the age of 12 Gladys earned a scholarship to Cellbridge Boarding School.
“I got a scholarship to Cellbridge which I hadn’t been expecting. I can remember hating it there. I used to come home at Christmas and the summer. My whole trip back to school on the train was spent crying. It couldn’t be helped as my mother had to work hard to keep the business going.”
One of Gladys fondest memories was seeing her mother purchase her first car. “We couldn’t believe it.”
It was during her teenage years that Gladys fell in love with a childhood friend of her family, Charles Victor Locke. “He took me by the hand going to school. Years later, when I was 18, he would come see my mother every time he was in Cork. He was very fond of her. There was an age gap of eight years. At the time I thought he was much too old for me.”
Luckily, Charles managed to win Gladys over on their first date.
“We went to the picture house. Because I was so young I’d never seen anything like it. I thought it was wonderful. We had supper in the restaurant upstairs and there was a man playing the organ before the film came on. When he was transferred to Dublin for work I would go there on excursions. The train cost 10 shillings back then.”
The pair eventually wed in Cork.
“It seems like a very long time ago now, but we had a very happy marriage,” she said. “I had a very good husband,”
The staff and residents at Leopardstown Park Hospital have become like one big family to Gladys.
“I had an apartment but after getting a new knee I was no longer able to manage the steps. I’m here now 10 years and am well looked after.
“You get what you like is. I usually have toast with marmalade in the mornings. Porridge isn’t something I’d ever go for. I’ve never liked it.
“I couldn’t say a bad word against the staff. They are very good people.” Gladys particularly enjoys visits from her daughter Barbara and her grandchildren.
“I only had one child, but she had six children and that made up for it. They all have their own families now. Barbara was always a wonderful daughter.”