FIVE GALWAY women, all aged more than 100, are interviewed and profiled in the award winning Older Than Ireland, which won the Best Feature Documentary award at this summer's Galway Film Fleadh, and goes on general release in cinemas on Friday.
The State, originally the Irish Free State and later The Republic of Ireland, was established in December 1921 following the War of Independence and the subsequent Treaty negociations in London. Older Than Ireland though, directed by Alex Fegan, profiles 30 men and women, born before that date and who are still with us today. Each centenarian shares his/her life’s memories, recalling the day they got their first pair of shoes; the thrill of their first kiss; their wedding day; the loss of loved ones; and the immense social, political ,and technological change they have witnessed.
Of local interest is the fact the film features County Galway natives Margaret Kelly, Mary Kilroy, Kathleen Fosdike, Madge Fanning, and Winifred Anderson.
Margaret Kelly, aged 100, was born into a farming family in Menlough. At her first schoolhouse dance she met her future husband PJ, with whom she had six children. They were married for more than 70 years until PJ passed away in 2012. One of Margaret's great passions is knitting and she makes blankets, hats, and scarves for her grandchildren and for charity. When it came to her reaching the milestone age of 100 the President’s cheque (the centenarian bounty of €2,540 ) she received came in handy to pay for one crucial event. “We spent that on the party sure. If we didn’t have it we’d have to do without it," she says.
Also born in Menlough, but a year earlier than Margaret Kelly, is Mary Kilroy, who, with her late husband Paddy, set up a farm in Caltra. The couple had nine children. A big fan of the Galway Races, Mary always makes sure she has a flutter on the horses every year, particularly those owned by JP McManus. On the day she reached her 100th birthday Mary was bowled over by the number of cards she received - 452. As to the question of whether there is an afterlife or not, Mary says: “They always say no one ever wrote back to tell us, no one ever wrote back to tell us anything about where they went to. They couldn't write I suppose.”
Kathleen Fosdike, aged 100, who now lives jn Dublin, is originally from Dunmore. After working as a nanny, Kathleen moved to Britain where she worked again as a nanny until WWII broke out in 1939, and she went to work in a munitions factory. In 1946 she returned to Ireland. In 1949 she met Joe, who she married. He died in 1999. Asked about the secret to her longevity Kathleen has only one answer: “Age is honourable, youth is precious. No bad habits, no smoking, no drinking, no men.”
Winifred Anderson was born in Connemara in 1913 and lived there until 1941 when she moved to Cavan. It was here she met her future husband, George, with whom she had six children. Winifred is not sure what is in store for her in the next world but she believes her faith in God will see her through. “There's people would laugh at you if you said that Hell is in this world," she says, "I believe there is a God anyway, that's one thing for certain.”
Madge Fanning was born in Loughrea in 1915. In 1937 she moved to Dublin where she married Jamesie, and they had eight children. Madge marked her 100th birthday with a big party in the Grand Hotel, Malahide, attended by family, friends and neighbours. Madge is the fifth sibling in her family to reach 100, a massive achievement which has earned her a place in the Guinness World Records. When it comes to the question of what the meaning of life is, Madge says: “That’s one thing I can’t tell you now, I don't ever think of life. I live from day to day and hope for the best.”
Older Than Ireland will be screened in The Eye Cinema, Wellpark, from Friday September 25. For more information see www.olderthanireland.ie and @olderireland.