Belfast Telegraph

Spirited Gwen toasts her 100th birthday with family and a wee drop of whiskey

By Nevin Farrell

Five generations have come together in Coleraine to mark Gwen Parkhill turning 100.

She officially becomes a centenarian today, but the family celebrated the landmark birthday with a gathering at the Lodge Hotel yesterday.

The party included her daughter Grace Graham (71), granddaughter Cheryl Culbertson (47), great-granddaughter Paige Walker (23) and great great grandson Kai Linton (2).

It was an amazing display of close family bonds spanning the decades.

Around 150 guests came from as far away as America to mark Gwen's milestone birthday, and she herself celebrated the occasion with her favourite tipple - Bushmills Whiskey.

Granddaughter Cheryl, from Ballymoney, explained the secret of her gran's long life. "She is just a very spirited person and just loves being interested in everybody and everything around her, I think that is what keeps her going. She also has a wee tipple, Black Bush Whiskey.

"It was a brilliant night," she said, adding that her granny would have joined them on the dance floor if it hadn't been for an injury to her hip.

"Granny broke her hip three years ago. She can walk slightly but she wasn't up dancing," Cheryl explained. "She is a very well-known lady. She spent a lot of years in Union Street, Coleraine. She worked as a nurse in her younger years and then took in lodgers. A lot of them turned up for her party."

Also at the celebrations were some of the staff from Ratheane Care Home in Coleraine where Gwen now lives.

"She would be a very spiritual woman, she spent a lot of time with the church. She is a wild woman for word searches and crossword puzzles. She would probably read a book in a week. She loves novels, particularly Catherine Cookson. She has played the piano all her life and can still play it," Cheryl added.

One of Gwen's closest friends is fellow Ratheane resident, Nan McLaughlin, who turns 101 on June 5.

Nan was unable to be present at the Lodge Hotel on Saturday night but a special joint party for the friends, who have known each other for almost 90 years, is to be held on June 3.

Both women were born during the First World War and became friends as teenagers in the 1930s and, ever since, they have never been far apart.

Both recently agreed: "We couldn't do without each other".

They were both born in the same town of Dungiven; moved to Coleraine where they lived in the same street for many years; attended the same church; worked in the same shop; got engaged in the same week, and their husbands bought their rings in the same jewellers.

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