South Derry woman Mary Shaw has reached another significant milestone as she celebrates her 101st birthday with relatives and friends at Moneymore Care Home.
Mary, who was born in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne on January 25, 1915, lived for eight years in England before returning to stay with her granny McGurk at Inniscarn, outside Moneymore, after her mother died.
Surprisingly, she still has strong memories of her childhood years of going to school at St Mary’s School in Newcastle and watching Charlie Chaplin movies in the local “Picture House.”
Her father, James McGurk, is thought to have been a miner and because he could no longer care for the children when his wife Margaret died, put them on the steam boat back to Northern Ireland.
Mary even remembers the journey back on the boat from Newcastle and going to live with her grandparents on the family farm at Inniscarn.
She attended Cullion Primary School where she was taught by Mrs Shields, whom she described as “cross”, and Master Daly.
Mary stayed at Cullion Primary for seven years and then left to work on the farm. In later years she took care of her granny.
When she was 22 she married local man Alphonsus Shaw. They lived with granny McGurk and remained on the farm after she passed away.
Mary and Alphonsus did not have a family but they enjoyed looking after their nephews and nieces who called at the family.
One of them Rosaleen, from London, has happy memories of visiting the family on the slopes of Slieve Gallion when she was a child.
“Auntie Mary was good fun and I remember walking to church with her on Sunday mornings,” she said.
According to nephew Patsy Cassidy, from Draperstown, Mary enjoyed good health. “She would walk from Inniscarn to Desertmartin to get the bus to go into Magherafelt to get her shopping,” he said. “She was a fit and active woman always busy on the farm making food and looking after her chickens.”
Mary received a birthday card from Queen Elizabeth last year to mark her 100th birthday as she was born in England but does not qualify for a card from the Irish President as she was born before partition.
She has been a resident of Moneymore Care Home for 23 years.
Today (Wednesday) the staff are planning to throw a big party to celebrate Mary’s special day.