Pedal power for 104-year-old Mary!

Pauline Scott Every week-morning Mary Casey attends the gym area in Plunkett Community Nursing Unit in Boyle and spends some time on the exercise bike under the watchful eye of a physiotherapist. Her regime would put most people to shame, but when you consider the fact that Mary is 104 years young, then you realise that this woman is very special. She was 12 when the events of 1916 occurred and it was after the War of Independence that she emigrated to England. During the second world war she worked in maternity hospitals in England, delivering babies, and on one memorable occasion she delivered a baby girl in a bunker during an air raid. She retired almost forty years ago and it is 23 years since she moved back to her native Boyle from England, ‘a mere slip of a thing in her early 80s’, according to her nephew Michael. Four years ago at her 100th birthday celebrations some of the babies she delivered during the war years, themselves now pensioners, were among the guests. Since July 2005, Mary has been receiving excellent care at Plunkett Community Nursing Unit in Boyle. She walks using a wheeled frame, which appears to be more as an aid to balance than out of necessity. Traces of her time in England can be heard in her distinctive, clipped tones and she remains a composed and very determined woman. Mary was the third youngest of four boys and three girls born to Patrick and Ann Casey at Townalaura, Boyle. She was born on November 21 st , 1904. In 1925, at the age of 21, Mary left her native Townalaura, between Boyle and Corrigeenroe, and began her nursing training in Booth Hall in Manchester, a training school for nurses in special care for children. She remained at Booth Hall until March 1929 when she qualified. She later moved to London and worked with London County Council, working as a general nurse on the wards from 1929 to 1931. She qualified in Nursing Class 1 and then moved to Portsmouth and worked at a hospital for some years before moving back to Birmingham where she worked as a midwifery training teacher. Mary has many stories from her years in Birmingham. She worked as a matron in a hospital in Sutton Colefield, remaining there until her retirement. After her retirement, she took up private nursing for some years, before returning to Ireland 23 years ago. Back in Boyle, she found herself in the midst of lots of nieces and nephews, great grand nieces and nephews and now Mary has one great great grandniece, Ella Casey, living in the Boyle area. When I visited Plunkett Home Community Nursing Unit in Boyle on Monday, Mary was looking splendid, having had her hair done for the visit. When it was explained to her that I was from Roscommon People, a new newspaper in the county, she noted that she was familiar with the paper and receives it and enjoys reading it every week! Throughout her life she was a very hard worker and during her time as a nurse, nursing duties were heavy, including making beds, scrubbing floors and catering for patients’ needs. She often did two shifts straight through if a colleague was unable to work due to illness or family commitments. Never an abstemious person, she smoked and had the odd drink, although she doesn’t bother with either any more.  So, what is the secret of Mary’s longevity? Some wits will note the fact that she never married and speculate about the effects of marriage on a person’s longevity! However, Mary herself puts it down to a regular lifestyle, regular exercise and accepting the vagaries which life throws up along the way. She eats breakfast, lunch and a light tea every day. She also does physiotherapy every day in Plunkett Home. She has particularly happy memories of her time working as a nurse in England during World War II. ‘We would do a term on night duty and the sirens would go at some time during the night and you would have to be ready for that. It was a very fickle time, you never knew what was coming next and you just accepted it all. There was no day you could say ‘you will have such and such’, there was so much variety, every day and you accepted it. I never complained about the war time and we worked very hard. I got up during the night and just got up and didn’t think I was giving up my off duty. I enjoyed it.’ She recalled delivering a baby girl in an air raid shelter in Birmingham. ‘It didn’t frighten me and I wasn’t in a state of anxiety, I enjoyed it. Actually, it was a very good war-time. You accepted everything and that was the nice part of it. Normally you would question things, whether you would do this or that and during the war you just did it.’ ‘You accepted everything and somehow or other you came out of it. When you are up against something you come out of it and that’s what we had to do during the war.’ Speaking of her health, Mary said, ‘I was always healthy. I never missed a day from school. I wouldn’t grumble about a cold and nothing seemed to frighten me very much.’