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Secret of living to 100? ... it’s all in the genes

By Catherine Lynagh

A former mill manager from Ballinamallard turns 100 tomorrow.

From her home in the small County Fermanagh village, Isa Craig explains that she’s not the first centenarian in her family. Her father Jack McGarry, a former Harland and Wolff foreman who worked on the Titanic, lived to be 102.

This Valentine’s Day Isa will celebrate her 100th birthday and we asked her to tell us her secrets to a long life.

She told our reporter that longevity is all down to good genes: “It’s in the genes — not the kind you wear though!”

When it comes to food and drink Isa said everything was taken in moderation, but that she: “Liked food and I was very fond of a glass of wine with every meal. I didn’t have a preference over white or red, just as long as it was wine.”

When we asked the extremely youthful Isa if she had any beauty secrets to share, she named only one product: “The only thing I would have used was Oil of Olay. A dab here and there every day. I never went to extremes with my face routine.”

Isa’s other advice to living a long life, is to live a busy life: “I worked very hard all my life and many a time I was tired, but never admitted how tired I was. Instead, I would just go home and go straight to bed.”

She also had wise words for the younger generations: “My best advice is — be content with what you have. Don’t look for more and you will be content.”

Isa was born in Belfast’s Holywood Road area, marrying her ‘beloved’ Desmond in 1940. The wartime sweethearts were together for 37 years and Isa fondly remembers the first time they met: “I was introduced to my husband by a friend as we stood waiting for the tram.

“From the moment we met, he said he was going to marry me. He was a wonderful man and we had a wonderful life.”

Before moving to Ballinamallard, Isa led a career as a Belfast mill manager.

She worked at a lingerie factory run by Jewish refugees and worked there until 1945, while her husband was at war.

Tomorrow Isa and her two children, two grandchildren and extended family and friends are celebrating her 100 year milestone with a large gathering in Irvinestown.


Belfast in 1910 was enjoying the greatest boom in its history.

Linen mill chimneys and the shipyard cranes framed the commercial success of the city. Other industries included engineering, rope-making, distilling and tobacco.

Irish Unionist MPs at Westminster elected Sir Edward Carson as party leader.

The population of Belfast was around 350,000.

The cost of a pint of beer or milk was about 0.4p

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