HAPPY BIRTHDAY NANCY WATCH: 107-year-old Meath woman celebrates birthday by reading SundayWorld.com
Nancy from Clonard, Co Meath, has been getting the Sunday World every Sunday since 1973.
GRAND old lady Nancy Stewart, Ireland’s oldest woman still living in her own home, this morning celebrates her amazing 107th Birthday by checking out the latest news on our brand new sundayworld.com website.
Nancy from Clonard, Co Meath, who is still totally engaged with everything going on in the world, has been getting the Sunday World every Sunday since 1973.
Now, living legend Nancy is delighted that she can get it every day on sundayworld.com, which, just like the paper, has all the news without the boring bits.
“I love the Sunday World, I read every bit of it from top to toe when I was able,” says Nancy, who shares her home with her granddaughter Louise Coughlan.
“I’m not able to read so much now, but I hear and see all that’s in it… and I’m 107. I hear that the Sunday World has a new website, so I hope to get them to read it out to me during the week."
Nancy, who has 64 grandchildren, great grandchildren, and great great grandchildren, has lived through a lot in her 107 years – the Spanish flu, Ireland’s Independence and two world wars.
She is one of our national treasures, and she has a simple message for everyone in Ireland today as we battle through Covid-19: “Wear your mask, wash your hands and don't break the rules, and we're going to get out of this no problem, I’m sure of that.”
Nothing fazes Nancy and she loves engaging with everything that’s happening today.
During lockdown she even appeared in a music video for Irish singer Luan Parle’s latest hit, Change Your Mind.
She has also been sending out messages of hope to the world in this pandemic on Louise’s Facebook and Twitter pages.
Louise says: “Grannie is 107 in a world pandemic. She's been through it all. She's been through the Spanish flu, the independence of the State, women not having votes and women having votes, life without electricity or a phone or car – and here she is in 2020 getting on with life through Covid-19.”
Looking back at her childhood in Castlerickard near Longwood, Co Meath, Nancy tells the Sunday World that her father, a blacksmith, died young, leaving her postmistress mother a widow with six children.
When she was born in 1913, the Brits ruled Ireland. As a child, she remembers the Black and Tans calling to her home during the War of Independence.
“My mother was afraid and sent us to hide in the fields of a farm across the road,” she tells me. “But they never done us any harm. My mother was churning and they asked her for a drink of buttermilk. She gave it to them, they thanked her, and went off.”
Nancy grew up without electricity, running water, a bathroom, telephone, TV or car, all of which came later in her adult life. “When the electricity came you could hear us cheering for miles around. Oh sure it was a treat beyond all,” she says.
Nancy moved to her home in Clonard when she married Bob Stewart in 1938. The couple were dairy farmers, sending their milk to Hughes’s Dairy in Dublin. “You’d be watching for the milk cheque every month,” she says.
Nancy’s home is precious to her. It’s where she gave birth to her six children, one son and five daughters, including twins, in an upstairs bedroom, with the assistance of local “Nurse Doyle”.
As life progressed, Bob and Nancy acquired one of the first cars in the area “an old one.”
Nancy’s daughter, Kathleen Maye, recalls how her father would oblige the neighbours by collecting their grocery lists and doing their shopping in O’Brien’s store in the nearest town of Edenderry, Co Offaly, because they had no transport at the time.
Bob and Nancy were happily married for 51 years until tragedy struck one Sunday morning in 1989 when they were involved in a car crash on their way to Mass. Bob was seriously injured and died a week later in hospital. Nancy suffered a broken jaw and was hospitalised, unable to attend her dear husband’s funeral.
In the last decade, Nancy’s twin daughters, Margaret and Anne, also died from illnesses.
The downside of a long life is the loss of loved ones. But Nancy is stoical. “I don’t want to be whingeing and crying,” she says.
Her eldest child, Bob, is 83.
Few can boast that they have an 83-year-old son, I tell her.
“We do laugh at the good of it,” she says.
Crowds thronged the hall in Clonard last year to honour their local celebrity when she turned 106.
As well as Nancy’s large family that includes 64 grandchildren, great grandchildren and great-great grandchildren, people also came from far and wide to celebrate with her.
“There were people there I never knew nor heard of,” she says. “And there were that many priests on the altar at the Mass I thought I was in Lourdes.”
She tells me that no one is more surprised than herself that she has reached this incredible milestone in her life.
She’s been told that she’s the oldest person in Ireland still living in their own home.
Until she broke her hip in a fall at her home on Christmas Eve 2018, Nancy was living alone and completely self-sufficient.
She is still mobile with the aid of a walker.
Today, Nancy has the support of family members and home care. “I’ve a good living here in my own house and I’m well minded,” she says. “People should be at home in their own house if they have someone to mind them.”
She’s blessed with good skin, looking decades younger, and her mind is still razor sharp.
So what’s the secret of her long life. Nancy eats lots of fried onions, she tells me. “Eat plenty of plain food and get a good dinner, whatever you’re fond of.”
She has been teetotal and a non-smoker all her life. But she says she has a fry - “black and white pudding, mushrooms a sausage and fried bread with a big mug of tea” - every evening before going to bed.