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Double century as NI's oldest couple celebrate another birthday

Another birthday bash for Joe (102) and Nellie (101)

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Joseph and Nellie Graham are believed to be Northern Ireland’s oldest couple

Joseph and Nellie Graham are believed to be Northern Ireland’s oldest couple

Joseph and Nellie Graham are believed to be Northern Ireland’s oldest couple

The birthday candles are usually in big demand in Joe and Nellie Graham's home in Randalstown.

Between them, the amazing couple have celebrated no fewer than 203 special days.

But the coronavirus crisis put a dampener on Joe's 102nd birthday this week.

Nellie, who is 101, and her family were forced to abandon plans to put on a party for Joe.

The couple's 76-year-old son David said: "It was a very different birthday for my dad. My parents' minister called by and there were messages from friends and family but the nervousness over the pandemic meant that we couldn't celebrate the way we normally would.

"In the end my mother and father did very little to mark the day."

Joe and Nellie who had three children have 11 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren who were saddened that they could not see the heads of the family in person.

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joe and nellie

joe and nellie

joe and nellie

Irish President Michael D Higgins did not forget Joe's special day, however. Every birthday Orangeman Joe and Nellie receive a special coin from Dublin as a follow up to the €2,540 gift they each got on their 100th birthdays.

The colourful pair who still live independently in their own home are reckoned to be Northern Ireland's oldest married couple.

And they say they are happy as ever - and they have been side by side for 28,464 of them since their wedding on September 23, 1942, which was right in the middle of World War Two.

Their 78th wedding anniversary next month is also expected to be a low key affair.

Joe and Nellie were childhood sweethearts, having met at Taylorstown Elementary Primary school.

David said: "They started school on the same day and they sat beside each other.

"My father was six and my mother was five. That's 96 years or so they've known each other."

After they married, Joe, who is a fanatical supporter of Ballymena United went with Nellie to live on a farm outside Randalstown before moving into the town where they both worked in the Old Bleach linen factory.

Nellie, who will be 102 years young next May, said she did not know what the secret was to their longevity and she scoffed at claims from couples who insisted they never rowed.

"You can have an argument at any time of the day but you always make up after it, " she said.

Belfast Telegraph