Crolly woman celebrates 100th birthday

Matt Britton

Reporter:

Matt Britton

A CO. Donegal woman who is now a resident of a nursing home near Omagh, has celebrated her 100th birthday surrounded by family and friends and put her long life down to the fact that she never smoked and only had the “odd drink at Christmas”

A CO. Donegal woman who is now a resident of a nursing home near Omagh, has celebrated her 100th birthday surrounded by family and friends and put her long life down to the fact that she never smoked and only had the “odd drink at Christmas”

Annie Conwell, who was born in the townland of Meeneweal in Crolly, Co. Donegal, on March 10, 1912, was joined by over 40 people, including her two sons James and Charlie, for the celebrations in Slieve na Mon care centre, where she has been a resident for over three years.

Things were very different when Annie was growing up in the small village of Crolly and as one of the five members of the Gallagher family she had to join in and do all the family tasks - after school it would be out to the mountain working at the turf and hay and herding in the cattle.

Annie never donned a pair of shoes until she was 11-years-old and got great enjoyment out of going to ceilis in the evening at the local crossroads.

At the age of 14, she travelled to the hiring fair in Strabane along with a friend, and was hired out for six months to the McKnights, a farming family from Beragh, a village close to Omagh and Six Mile Cross.

While working for the McKnights, Annie milked 20 cows in the morning, and then again in the evening. She also had to make breakfast for the workers, as well as dinner and evening meals - she simply worked around the clock.

This remarkable lady once rode a bicycle from Beragh to Letterkenny hospital to see a friend who had been admitted as a patient.

As she got older, Annie still enjoyed going to ceilis in the evenings, and met Glenmornan man, Charles Conwell, who was hired nearby.

The couple were married in the parish of Sion Mills by Rev B Kielt on May 24, 1944, and enjoyed almost 63 happy years together, before Charles died on March 31, 2007.

During her long working life, Annie was also hired out in Sion Mills with Jim Baird, and later worked for some years with Oliver Stevenson and his wife in Rabstown, the Glebe.

As well as her love of dancing, the Donegal native enjoyed bingo, backing horses and going to the slot machines in Bundoran and would also be a great fan of a man who is only half her age - the Kincasslagh crooner Daniel O’Donnell!

Her son James Conwell, who visits his mother three times a week, attributes her long life to her strong work ethic, and the fact that she never smoked and only drank at Christmas.

“My mother believed in hard work, but also enjoying yourself and not worrying too much about things,” he added.