Mary Ellen Callan reaches the century

Mary Ellen Callan of Ruskey, between Killygordon and Convoy, reached the grand old age of 100 and the entire community of the area came together to celebrate the great occasion.

A special Mass was celebrated in the Callan home to honour Mary Ellen, who will be receiving the President’s cheque to mark her great age.

Mary Ellen was born on 14th May 1903 and has enjoyed reasonably good health during all of her long life. She resides with her three sons, James, Patrick and Stephen, and all four family members receive the old age pension weekly, something which must be unique in any household in Ireland.

Mary Ellen is blessed with a good memory and can recall her childhood vividly. She remembers her late father, Johnny Harper, a native of the locality, who worked as a farm labourer and also in the now defunct Convoy Mill. She remembers her mother, formally Brigid McGlynn, also from the Ruskey area and says they were two good ordinary people who worked hard during their lifetime to provide for their family. Mary Ellen says she was only four years old when her mother passed away. There were three other children in her family, Joe, Patrick and Stephen. “It was a hard life back then when I was growing up. Money wasn’t so plentiful then. It was very scarce. When I was 13, I went to work in Brigid Carlin’s farmhouse which was near where we lived. She did not live far away and I was able to come home every night. She didn’t pay me, she paid my granny who lived with us at that time.

“She had no children of her own. Her husband was killed as a young man when he fell out of a cart and broke his neck. I was also hired in Johnny Tempe’s for six months. He was the same family as Magee’s of Donegal tweed people,” Mary Ellen recalls.

Mary Ellen married the late Jimmy Callan from Ramelton, when she was 22. He worked locally in the former McLaughlin’s pub in Ruskey. He was also hired for a time in Tinney’s.

She went on: “I remember what I wore on my wedding day, a dress, coat and hat. My granny and I bought them in McGinty’s shop in Ballybofey. We did not have a wedding breakfast first. The wedding was about eleven o’clock, we had a taxi hired for the day. We came back home to eat and then we went to Letterkenny and toured around for the rest of the day.

“My husband at that time, worked for Callaghan’s who were wealthy farmers. He was the horseman there for many years. Callaghan’s used to supply the towns of Ballybofey and Strannorlar with milk. Jimmy was fed at home and his wages were 18 shillings a week. We also got two quarts of milk a day and one rood of potatoes. That was all.”

Yesterday was a great occasion for Mary Ellen with all of her family and extended family gathered around her, a number of whom travelled home from abroad for the great occasion. Her son, James, who looks after her with great care and devotion, said he was proud that his mother had reached this great milestone in her life.

“She is a grand old lady and very easy to look after. Her health is really good for one of so many years and I hope it remains that way. This is indeed a proud day for all of the Callan family and we will enjoy the occasion to the full,” he said.

Courtesy of the Donegal Democrat
May 2003