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Kathleen's secret to living to 106? Live a good, clean life and wash with carbolic soap

By Ann W Schmidt

Published 10/08/2016

Kathleen Hughes from west Belfast celebrates her 106th birthday at Fruithill Nursing Home
Kathleen Hughes from west Belfast celebrates her 106th birthday at Fruithill Nursing Home

The secret to long life is "good hard work" - though carbolic soap might also help, according to 106-year-old Kathleen Hughes.

She celebrated her birthday yesterday at Fruithill Nursing Home in west Belfast with huge pink balloons and a sash that said "Birthday Girl".

After she blew out the candle on her butterfly-themed birthday cake, she told the Belfast Telegraph that her plans for her big day were simple.

"I'm going to have a party and a wee gin and tonic," she said.

Born on Raglan Street in Belfast, Kathleen is thought to be the third oldest woman in Northern Ireland. She has lived in Belfast her whole life, growing up near St Peter's Square.

In her 106 years, she has lived through two World Wars and nine royal weddings. She was just two years old when the Titanic sank and 13 years old when the Queen was born.

But her greatest accomplishment is her children and grandchildren. Her children Frances Lawlor (69), Roy Hughes (73) and Maureen Harper (74) all live nearby in Belfast and celebrated with her on her big day. Kathleen has 15 grandchildren.

In her 106 years, Kathleen said she has no regrets and her advice to her grandchildren and great grandchildren is straightforward.

"Just have a good, clean life," she said.

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She joked with her daughters that carbolic soap was her real secret to her long life. "Carbolic soap. You wash the floor with it, you wash your face with it," she said.

There are two known women in Northern Ireland who are older than Kathleen. Margaret 'Peggy' Dunbar and Sarah 'Sally' Brady both turned 107 earlier this year. Peggy was born on February 20, 1909 and Sally was born on March 3, 1909.

Peggy received a 'centenary handshake' from the Irish government and Sally is the mother of Sinn Fein MP Mickey Brady.

The oldest person ever from Northern Ireland was Elizabeth Watkins, who died in 1973 aged 110.

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