*Mary celebrates her 100th birthday. Photograph: John Mangan

A Newmarket-on-Fergus woman who recently turned 100 has said the secret to a long life is long walks, oranges, vegetables and plenty of water.

The ever-glamorous Mary Fealey nee Higgins of Ballysallagh West, Newmarket-on-Fergus celebrated her 100th birthday earlier this month. Mary received her centenary bounty, personally addressed to her from President Michael D. Higgins, wishing her a happy birthday and congratulating her on her longevity.

“What’s this 100 years old. I’m hardly a day over 60,” Mary remarked to The Clare Echo.

Born on the 21st of September 1920, Mary is the daughter of the late Jim and Delia Higgins. Mary is a grandmother to 12, a great grandmother to 35 and a great-great grandmother to 9 children and adores all her family. Her father Jim was in the Irish army and he hurled with the 1932 Clare team, winning a Munster Championship and reaching the All-Ireland final in the same year.

At club level, Jimmo Higgins was known as a local legend, winning two championships with Newmarket in 1916 and 1925. His photograph can be found today at St. Finbarr’s Clubhouse in Cork, where he hurled for a time, winning a club championship. This was due to his career in the army which saw him stationed all over the country. Jim also hurled for a time with the Army Metro Club in Dublin during the 1920s. Adopting a second team in a different county was a normal practice at the time for men that had to travel for work. Jim could have played for Dublin or Cork, but his heart was always at home in County Clare, stating that, “the only All–Ireland medal worth winning for was one with Clare.”

Mary’s late brother Tom was a Sargent teaching in the army’s school of music. He served in the army for about 29 years and lived in Cork. Ambrose, her second brother, served in the army for 27 years and served in a United Nations unit in the Congo. Jim, her third brother, held a position in Clare County Council and growing up, was a close friend of President Michael D. Higgins. Her dear sister Nan was a housewife. Mary had two sons, Tommy and James. Tommy died tragically at a young age.

Mary’s oldest son James is her carer and lives with her. Mary received her education in Kilrush convent, at that time, operated by nuns. She also attended Clonmoney National School. In her younger years Mary worked in Limerick as a nanny and then went on to work for the late Doctor Fitzgerald in Ballycar. Mary also became a carer and looked after her brother for many years.

Mary loves to sing and was a part of the parish choir for a very long time and enjoyed every minute of it.

On reaching the centenary milestone, her grand-daughter Laura professes, “She is in good health and her secret to a long life is plenty of walking, eating lots of vegetables, oranges and drinking water. The biggest potion is fun, laughter and keeping glamorous. To this day Mary still loves to put on make-up and getting her hair done. Her days now are spent relaxing watching all her favourite TV programmes especially Mrs Brown’s Boys. She loves listening to music and her favourite song is O Danny Boy and would often sing it.”

Laura added, “Her own mother Delia lived to be 104 years old and hopefully Mary will too.”

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Subscribe for just €3 per month

If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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