Oldest living Irishwoman at 108 gives us exclusive interview
County Clare woman left Ireland in 1918
The year was 1902 – the average wage in the U.S. was 22 cents per hour, the country consisted of 45 states, only 6% of Americans graduated high school, and the average life expectancy was 47 years old.
Someone forgot to tell that last fact to Margaret Kelly, who was born in Scarriff, Co. Clare in 1902 and is still going strong all these years later . . . 108 years and two months later, to be precise.
Margaret is quite likely the oldest living Irish-born person on the planet – earlier this year The Irish Times reported that a lady in Co. Cork, believed to have been the country’s most senior citizen, passed weeks before her 108th milestone – and judging from an interview she conducted with the Irish Voice, the spunky senior has every intention of sticking around for as long as she can.
Margaret currently resides at the Pines Nursing Home in Glens Falls, New York, about 50 miles north of Albany. Though she’s the oldest Pines resident by far she’s one of the most recent additions to the home – until three months ago she lived with her daughter Margie Dunn in the nearby town of Queensbury and was in robust health.
A visit to the Pines by the Irish Voice last week was a joy to behold – sitting bolt upright in her wheelchair, her thick silver hair newly styled and her nails painted bright pink, Margaret was more than ready to chat about what she remembered about the Ireland of all those years ago, and her love of her adopted country.
She left Clare when she was only 16 years old, in 1918. In those days once you left it was likely that you were gone for good, and so it was with Margaret. She has never set foot on Irish soil since departing on the boat that took her to Ellis Island, though her Irish accent is, remarkably, still as thick and rich as the day she left.
“I remember my mother, she’d hit you with anything she had in her hand! She had no mercy for you!” Margaret said. “And the church; we were always in the church. It was a great big church. I wonder if it’s still there.”
Margaret McNamara was one of seven children raised by poor farmers in Ireland. Most of the siblings left Ireland out of necessity, and none of them ever returned.
When Margaret arrived into Ellis Island she met a handsome Englishman named Frederick Kelly. They loved going to the famous dance halls in New York like the Jaeger House and the Tuxedo. “I used to love to dance. I loved going to those places,” Margaret recalled.
The two married in 1925 and settled in Queens, raising five children, one of whom, Raymond, died when he was four from pneumonia. After the marriage Margaret stopped working as a nanny to raise her family.
As Margaret’s daughter Margie tells it, her mother didn’t have an easy life. She’s been a widow for 50 years, as Frederick died suddenly in 1960 after a botched operation. The family had just moved into a new home in Woodside, and Frederick, who worked as a manager at a grocery store in Greenwich Village, didn’t have a pension or other benefits for his devastated survivors to fall back on.
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I think it's a riot that a girl who is accused of drug smuggling is still wearing her hair in a huge bun. You can't make this stuff up.Sarah Palin is saving Christmas
It is kind of strange in America how you hear more Christmas songs the day after Thanksgiving (aka Black Friday) than you do the day after Christmas.An open letter in strong defence of capitalism to Pope Francis
Pope is not against capitalism but rather the excess of captialism....nothing new here, Pope John Paul II said after we dismantled the Evil Empire: &qSarah Palin is saving Christmas
Since O'Doherty has never revealed himself to have anything intelligent to say, why not just engage in hate-filled trivializing caricatures.