BORN in 1921, Nora May O’Hanlon, Ballygibbon, is celebrating her 100th birthday on May 3.
“It is a great occasion,” says her daughter, Eileen Casey, one of six siblings.
Expecting the postman to deliver the centenarian bounty cheque of €2,540 from President Michael D. Higgins, Nora May has already received an early birthday present from the Taoiseach, Micheál Martin.
“Mam was one of the first people to get the vaccine at the Bishopstown campus of Munster Technological University; MTU, on February 27,” says Eileen.
“And she was the oldest one at 99. She was thrilled when she met the Taoiseach, who presented her with a beautiful bouquet of flowers to mark the occasion.
“Mam was thrilled to get the vaccine,” says Eileen.
“And she was thrilled to meet Michéal Martin!”
Nora May, who is blessed with 11 grandchildren and six great grand-children, has a positive outlook on life.
“She didn’t find lockdown too difficult. She loves reading the newspapers and keeping up with the news and we all live near her,” added her daughter.
Nora May, still living independently, was never isolated during the pandemic.
“All the neighbours were ringing her,” says Eileen. “She did miss them popping in to her down the lane though.”
What is she most looking forward to now she is vaccinated against Covid 19 and the restrictions are likely to be lessened in the coming months?
“Visiting her local pub in Waterloo and having a glass of brandy!” says Eileen laughing.
“Mam never took a drink until her later years. She could never afford it! Now she is partial to a drop of Hennessy brandy every now and again.”
“Mam lived a simple life,” Eileen says. “She worked on the home farm, eating the home-grown produce from the farm, the vegetables, the milk, the home-cured bacon; that would all be classed as organic food today.
“Mam is tall and strong. Fortunately, she always enjoyed good health. There was never a problem. And she never smoked. She often said that she thought smoking caused a lot of health problems.”
Nora May was born in a farm in Burnfort, near Mallow, and she went to national school in Burnfort. She had two sisters and two brothers.
“There were eight classes in national school back then and pupils seldom went on to secondary school,” says Eileen.
Nora May was always a caring person and a generous person.
“She took care of her younger siblings and helped out her aunts who lived nearby until she met dad.”
Like lots of girls of her generation; Nora May met her soul-mate when she went dancing.
“They used to go dancing to Whitechurch,” says Eileen.
“And dad and his brothers often came to the family farm where social dances were held in the yard; it used to be called The Loft.”
Did cupid strike in The Loft when John James was smitten by Nora May?
“It did!” says Eileen.
“Dad had horses but no tractor; the oldest did most of the work. Before school we’d go out and milk the cows, help save the hay at harvest-time, and we all helped in the fields thinning beet and vegetables. We fed the hens and the chickens. It was hard work. But we were happy!”
Does Nora May put hard work down to a long productive life?
“Yes, she does,” says Eileen “And from living a simple life.”
Nora May also has a strong social network, a deep faith, and is involved in her community.
“She is always interested in things going on around her,” says Eileen.
“And she has a keen interest in politics.
“She is very sharp and she loves people and being sociable.
Nora May has many strings to her bow to keep her hale and hearty.
“Mam has always been religious and has great faith and the priest came to her house when he could to give her holy communion. She watches the mass on TV now.”
Nora May was a widow at a relatively young age.
“Mam found herself a widow at 68,” says Eileen.
“It was a big shock when dad died suddenly of a heart attack. He was three years older than her.”
Nora May had resilience.
“The land was rented out and Mam joined the active retirement group in Whitechurch. She loved it and it was brilliant. Bus loads used head off up the country to Galway and Kilkenny and stay in lovely hotels. The group is very social and used to provide great entertainment and activities, like cookery demonstrations.
“Mam got great enjoyment out of the active retirement group and she made great friends.”
Nora May is lucky to have family and friends all around her, especially in these testing times.
“We were all in and out to her, into the garden and talking to her in the porch.
What are the plans for the President’s cheque of €2, 540?
“She’s going to share it among her grandkids,” says Eileen. “She realises some of them aren’t working during the pandemic and she’d like to help them out.”
Nora May, looking forward to sampling her granddaughter Anne’s sumptuous cake on her 100th birthday, is also looking forward to having her photograph taken with somebody she is very taken with.
“James O’Connor, newly elected to the Dáil, is Mam’s grand-nephew. She loves him and she is all talk about him! She’s really hoping that she’ll be able to get a photograph with James for her birthday.”
That would complete a perfect day.
“With a drop of brandy thrown in!” says Eileen laughing.
Cheers Nora May!