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107th heaven Ireland's oldest nursing home resident celebrates turning 107 - with a trip in the Popemobile

Máirín Hughes is believed to be the second-oldest person in the State

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Máirín with sister Elizabeth and staff at Maryfield nursing home.

Máirín with sister Elizabeth and staff at Maryfield nursing home.

A Garda escort was one of the highlights of Máirín’s day

A Garda escort was one of the highlights of Máirín’s day

A visit to Sabina Higgins.

A visit to Sabina Higgins.

A bus trip was one of the highlights of Máirín’s day

A bus trip was one of the highlights of Máirín’s day

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Máirín with sister Elizabeth and staff at Maryfield nursing home.

When Máirín Hughes attended the Eucharistic Congress in 1932 in the Phoenix Park - little did she think that decades later she'd be ferried there in the Popemobile on her 107th birthday.

But that's exactly the stunning tribute given to this amazing lady in recent days.

Máirín can remember leaving food at the doorsteps of people stricken by Spanish Flu in 1918 and later the Black and Tans patrolling her neighbourhood.

Máirín Hughes is the oldest person living in a nursing home in Ireland and is believed to be the second-oldest person in the Republic of Ireland - Nancy Stewart from Clonrad, Co. Meath, is about six months older. Another woman, from Newry, Co. Down, Madge Martin, also turned 107 last month.

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A bus trip was one of the highlights of Máirín’s day

A bus trip was one of the highlights of Máirín’s day

A bus trip was one of the highlights of Máirín’s day

Dedicated staff at Maryfield nursing home in Chapellizod, in Dublin, pulled out all the stops on Saturday last weekend to help Máirín celebrate her big birthday, with lots of incredible surprises.

"I began in the morning by attending a special Mass which was offered for me. Then I was greeted by the residents and staff with balloons and flowers, it was a big surprise," Máirín tells the Sunday World.

The Garda Band and a Garda motorcycle escort then arrived.

"The Garda Band played 'Happy birthday' and then the Popemobile came to bring me on a drive to the Phoenix Park," she recalls.

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A Garda escort was one of the highlights of Máirín’s day

A Garda escort was one of the highlights of Máirín’s day

A Garda escort was one of the highlights of Máirín’s day

The cavalcade stopped off at Áras an Uachtaráin where Sabina Higgins greeted Máirín.

"I met Sabina and she presented me with some lovely flowers," beams Máirín. "All the people in Chapelizod came out and they lined the streets and waved to me.

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A visit to Sabina Higgins.

A visit to Sabina Higgins.

A visit to Sabina Higgins.

"I walked around the Papal cross and then up the steps we had a little singsong to my favourite song, Óró 'Sé do bheatha 'bhaile.

"After that we went to the house in Palmerstown where I used to live, where I was greeted by the present owner. Then back to the nursing home and I finished off my celebrations there with a singsong and a drop of sherry.

"I enjoyed every moment of it, I was tired at the moment but I was very happy."

Born just two months before the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Máirín has a rich and varied background. Her mind is still alert and she can vividly recall early moments from her past, including the Spanish Flu in 1918/1919, which was the equivalent of Covid today and infected 800,000 people in Ireland, killing 23,000 here.

"I remember it, I remember my mother helping neighbours," she recalls, even though she was only aged four or five at the time. "I sometimes accompanied my older brothers who left food at the doors to help them but to keep isolated."

Growing up in Rathmore, near Killarney Co Kerry, she also remembers well the War of Independence, and particularly the scourge that was the terrifying Black and Tans.

"I remember lorries of Black and Tans passing at the end of the road and they wore the tan trousers and the black jackets," she recollects.

In 1924, Máirín moved to Cork where she went on to graduate from University College Cork and work in pathology.

"A big event I can remember was the Eucharistic congress in 1932," she notes. "I think it was the first public broadcast made by a Pope and we heard his voice distinctly in the Phoenix Park."

Máirín married her husband Frank in 1950 and they lived in Palmerstown. When Frank died in 1986 Máirín tried living at home for several years before moving into the independent living section of Maryfield nursing home, and later to the unit itself where the fabulous staff take care of her.

"I'm 38 and at 107 she is fitter than me," says Michelle Cramp of the activities staff. "We have a big garden at the back and she gets back up and down the hill quicker than myself. She only has a walking stick and I think she just brings that for show."

Máirín loves reading, crosswords, Sudoku, Scrabble and Patience. She also loves music and only watched TV for the news.

We then ask her this amazing lady what her big secret to long life is.

"I think moderation in everything. I'm not a pioneer," she stresses. "I enjoy wine with my lunch and the odd glass of sherry. I'm not into extreme exercise, but I like a little walk now and again."

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