“I’m nearly a week into my second hundred years now,” Jane Fortune told me with a grin as I wished her a happy birthday at her home in north Wexford this morning.
Time doesn’t stand still for any of us – even when we reach the ripe old age of 100 it seems.
Jane, of Parkannsley, Ballygarrett, has had no less than four birthday parties already. The cards, of which there have been hundreds so far, continue to pour through the letterbox every day.
There was a letter of congratulations from President of Ireland Michael D Higgins too. This is a momentous occasion in almost everyone’s eyes, everyone that is except Jane.
“’I never liked a fuss and I never liked being in a crowd,” said Jane, though she admitted to enjoying her birthday parties, particularly the big family gathering in Sean Og’s of Kilmuckridge last weekend. where guests included her great great grandchildren.
Jane was the youngest of seven children born to Richard Quinsey and Ellen Bolger and is the last surviving member of that family. She has been predeceased by her husband Michael, who died in 1959, and four of her seven children.
I’ll have a full, feature-length interview with Jane in next week’s Wexford People, New Ross Standard, Enniscorthy Guardian and Gorey Guardian if you’d like to learn a little about her life and times.
It was very interesting – and a lot of fun – to meet her today, along with her grandchildren Michael, a well-known artist, and Bernadette.
I told Jane that when someone who is 100-years-old is interviewed everyone always wants to know what their “secret” is.
‘”Plenty of hunger, hardship and hard work,’” she quickly replied.
I’m letting you know just in case any of you thought adding porridge or broccoli to your diet was going to do it!
Jane possesses great wit, warmth and a remarkable memory. She still has an active social life and keeps busy in general. There’s a knitting project she keeps meaning to get back to once she gets new wool.
I’ll share one story from earlier on that will give you some idea of the this remarkable lady’s spirit.
When I arrived at her home (a traditional, two-up, two-down cottage that she shares with seven cats) accompanied by Michael she wasn’t worried about 100th birthday parties or interviews, she was mainly wondering where her rake was.
Michael had borrowed it and forgotten to return it again, but, on the back-foot, he told her she couldn’t have been in that much of a hurry for it.
‘”I want to clean up all the leaves and bits outside,” she told him. A keen gardener, Jane also grows her own vegetables in the garden behind her home, from potatoes to onions and plenty in between, including the Wexford favourite: strawberries.
Jane, noting how things have moved on, recalled a time when she would have to cut the ‘”meadow’”, the large green area behind her home, with a clippers. It would take a number of visits – before and after a hard day’s work – before it would be completely done.
Michael, even though he knew better, then asked his grandmother – with more than a hint of mischief – if she reckoned she could still clip the hedge outside her home.
‘”I could,’” she assured him. “And I could clip that old hair too,’” she added swiftly, sizing up the black locks reaching for his shoulder with a twinkle in her eye.