Belfast Telegraph

Peggy Dunbar celebrates magnificent 107th birthday

By Lesley Houston

There aren't many centenarians who receive birthday greetings from two Heads of State - but Ballyclare woman Margaret Dunbar can boast both.

As well as letters from the Queen, the 107 year-old grandmother-of-three - who goes by Peggy - has received cards from Irish Presidents.

Peggy - thought to be the oldest woman in Northern Ireland - also received a 'centenary handshake' of €2,500 from the Irish Government.

Peggy's youngest daughter Jackie quipped that there were annual polite enquiries from Aras an Uachtarain in Dublin to see if her mother was still about.

"You get that if you reach 100 and you were born on the island of Ireland before partition in 1922," she explained.

"Every year I get a letter before her birthday to find out if she's still at this address, but I think it's just a polite way of asking if she's still alive," she said.

"Then she gets her letter.

"When she got the money she got a nice letter from the President at the time, Mary McAleese.

"She got her letter from the Queen when she turned 100 but she didn't get another one till she turned 106, and then this year for some reason she got another one."

That milestone age of 107 passed on her last birthday, February 20. Jackie, who has lived with her mother her entire life, never marrying herself, was surprised to learn that she is most likely the oldest woman - if not person - in Northern Ireland.

Recently the Belfast Telegraph reported that Sarah 'Sally' Bradyhad also turned 107, although she was born just a few days after Peggy, on March 3, 1909.

According to the website Oldest in Britain, based on research by Dr Andrew Holmes, Peggy is the current holder of the title.

The same list shows that the oldest local man is between 104 and 105, but there is no name for him.

The oldest person ever from Northern Ireland is thought to have been Belfast woman Elizabeth Watkins, who reached the ripe old age of 110 before she died in 1973.

Peggy never left the island of Ireland throughout her years - which have seen two World Wars and the Titanic disaster among other historic events.

In her birth year of 1909, Harry Ferguson of Massey Ferguson tractor fame became the first person to fly an aircraft in Ireland.

But flying wasn't for Peggy. "She wouldn't fly and she was terrified of water and wouldn't get on a boat, so she's been marooned here all her life," said Jackie.

But it's been a contented life in which she met Jackie's father John at a cricket club in Jordanstown in her late 20s, when she was Margaret Melville.

She outlived all her brothers and sisters.

It's been a life enjoyed out in her garden at her home at Ballylinney, outside Ballyclare.

"She was always out in the garden, working all the time right up to her 90s," added Jackie.

"She loved flowers and I remember as a girl being out with her till dark, digging up worms."

Belfast Telegraph


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