Medical experts tell us to avoid salt and sugar if we want to live longer but they haven’t done Westmeath’s latest centenarian, Anna McCarthy from Clonmellon, any harm.
Anna reached the milestone birthday on Tuesday November 11, but celebrated on Sunday surrounded by her many friends and family who came from as far afield as the USA and England for the festivities, which included a special Mass celebrated by Bishop Colm Smith, which Anna says was a “huge honour”.
Following the Mass there was a tea party in the village’s community centre attended by 130.
When Anna was born World War I was only a few months old and Ireland was still part of the British empire. Over the course of her long life she has witnessed huge changes in the wider world and in Clonmellon, the only place she has ever called home.
The last surviving member of her family of 10, Anna was “a great woman for the horse and trap” as a young woman, according to her niece and carer Marian Garry.
Her mother Elizabeth was a well-known butcher and a young Anna used to deliver meat to homes as far away as Castlepollard. “It was a great way of travelling,” Anna told us last Friday afternoon when we paid her a visit.
While she cycled until the ripe age of 85 and was a valued member of the local parish church until mobility became an issue in recent years, lifelong Pioneer Anna puts her longevity down to being active and “plain living”.
However, when it comes to the twin dietary scourges of modern life, salt and sugar, Anna chooses to ignore conventional medical wisdom. Not only does she love salt on her food, she takes three spoons of sugar in her tea and has a real sweet tooth. She shares a love of sweet things with her grandnieces Aine and Ellen and grandnephew Liam, who are regular visitors.
Despite her love of sugar and salt, the last time Anna was ill, Marian says, was 30 years ago. “She had internal bleeding. She was very poorly. We went into Mullingar and she got a blood transfusion and to this day we want to know whose blood she got,” Marian jokes. “It must have been someone good.”