Leitrim’s oldest person celebrates 106th birthday

Ballinaglera’s Ellen McGreal became the fourth oldest woman in Ireland and the oldest in the county when she celebrated her 106th birthday surrounded by friends, family and staff at St Phelim’s Nursing Home in Dromahair last month.

Ballinaglera’s Ellen McGreal became the fourth oldest woman in Ireland and the oldest in the county when she celebrated her 106th birthday surrounded by friends, family and staff at St Phelim’s Nursing Home in Dromahair last month.

Ellen has now racked up six prestigious letters of congratulations from the President of Ireland as well as a few special medallions for reaching such a fine age.

Ellen (formerly McHugh), from Glangevlin, Co Cavan married at the age of 31 to Michael McGreal and spent 72 years of her life in Aughrim, Ballinaglera. She only moved to St Phelim’s Nursing Home in Dromahair at the age of 102. Ellen’s husband Michael died in 1981.

Ellen had five children, three boys Arthur, Michael and Ternce Anthony and two girls Mary Ellen and Kathleen. They were all in Dromahair on August 18 to celebrate their mother’s significant and grand birthday. Ellen also had good wishes from her grand children, great grand children, as well as neighbours and friends.

Speaking to the Leitrim Observer last year, Ellen has said the years had just “slipped away.”

Ellen had attended an Irish College in Glangevlin and was the last of the daughters to leave home. Ellen was known to be very “house proud” in Ballinaglera, the busy farmers wife spent her days baking and sewing and cleaning as well as helping to milk cows, and win the hay. She also loved to read and was “never off the road” cycling when she was younger. Ellen who was reputedly a “great dancer” went to various dances in Glangevlin and Ballinaglera and around the area and she still loves to listen to music.

It could have been a very different way of life for Ellen. In 1931 Ellen had bought her passage to America to join her brother and sisters over there, but the US emigration closed down and “she couldn’t get.”

Who knows what a life in the land of opportunity could have brought for Ellen, but her family sure are happy she is still here.

In 1937 she married Michael McGreal from Ballinaglera . At 79 years of age, Ellen did get to America to visit family and friends.

Ellen is still in great health and stills reads and listens to the radio. Ellen had previously told the paper she was not a TV fan - “There is nothing good on the TV,” she had stated. She had also told the Leitrim Observer that she didn’t drink too much alcohol - “I never wanted to get addicted,” she said. She also stayed away from smoking during her years.

Born in 1906, Ellen has lived through some important dates in history, she was just 10 years old during the 1916 rising, she struggled through the Irish Civil Wars and was only young during the formation of the Irish Republic. She also remembers both World Wars and has lived though countless recessions. “We lived in poor times” -“we were content” she had said.

Fr Sean Mawn celebrated mass with Ellen, family, friends and nursing staff of St Phelim’s Nursing Home on August 18.