Mary’s 100 reasons to enjoy a really good night out!

Mary Trundle Ratuski celebrated her 100th birthday, still living in the house where she was born at 8, Montgomery Street, Carlow Town, on August 25, 1902 writes Charlie Keegan.

A retired primary teacher, Mary Ratuski is a real character who makes few concessions to her great age.

Possessed of a innate intelligence, quick wit and a great sense of humour, Mary makes light of reaching such a major milestone in life and could see little reason for all the fuss over the weekend.

The centenarian’s celebrations were held on Saturday night at McHugh’s Courthouse Hotel when Mary, surrounded by family, neighbours and friends numbering about 30, blew out the candles on a special cake and partook of a few whiskeys.

Among those present was Mary’s only surviving sibling, her brother, Tommy Trundle from Naas, who is aged 89.

The former Mary Trundle was the eldest of a family of six, in which Tommy was the youngest, and they are the last surviving family members.

Two of her past pupils were present on Saturday night - Fr. Pat O’Connell and Eoin O’Donoghue from Stradbally, while Fr. Dan Dunne, Rector of Knockbeg College, who is another past pupil, called to see Mary at her home on Friday.

On returning home from Saturday night’s party, Mary had, according to her daughter Marita demanded her normal nightcap of a drop of whiskey.

Marita, the only child of Mary’s marriage to Czech-born Josef Ratuski, is her mother’s greatest friend and dedicated companion.

Mary Trundle Ratuski is a proud Carlovian. She was educated at the old Presentation College on the convergence of College Street and Tullow Street, the location of the town library service today.
“I remember when in school, seeing the workers going to their jobs at the Nationalist across the road,” she recalls.

“I never missed a day in primary school, “ Mary says proudly. She adds that she and a classmate, Rita Noud, were chosen by the nuns for “The King’s Scholarships” in Dublin.

She undertook the two year teacher training course in Carysfort College, Blackrock, and immediately obtained a teaching post in the Boys’ National School in Stradbally.

“Fr Lynham was parish priest in Carlow at the time and he knew a teacher was needed in Stradbally.” Mary got the job and Stradbally was to be her only teaching post up to her retirement in 1960.

Conditions at the school were very basic and it was not easy for a woman, going to teach in an all-male domain, but Mary says she never flinched from her teaching responsibilities and always kept the best of order in her class.

She got on very well with the students and with the people of the area.

Mary lived initially in the hotel in Stradbally but once she purchased a new Morris Minor car from Willie O’Neill of O’Neill’s Garage in Tullow Street, she was able to commute to work from Carlow.

Mary says she drove carefully but remembers having to negotiate the ‘Windy Gap’ outside Stradbally twice a day. Eventually, she decided to drive through Athy to work. At a later stage, she bought a new Ford car which saw her though to the end of her teaching career. She then sold the vehicle.

Her husband was a sugar cook who came to Ireland at the establishment of the country’s first sugar processing factory at Carlow, in 1926.

They married in the Cathedral of the Assumption around 1930 and the birth of Marita completed a happy family. Josef died in 1975.

Mary had no option but to retire at the age of 60 and at this stage, she must have the distinction of being the longest-pensioned teacher in the country, after 42 years of retirement. She did subsequently undertake some ‘subbing’ work at Scoil Mhuire gan Smál in Carlow and the local Bishop Foley Boys’ National School.

In retirement, she also worked voluntarily for the Capuchin Friary in Dublin Street,which provided great fulfilment for her, given the fact that she is a woman of deep Christian beliefs.

She smoked a little at one stage in her life but gave up cigarettes, she says, while adding that she does continue to enjoy her nightcap of a drop of whiskey.

Remarkably, Mary is still able to make her own way upstairs to her bedroom.
Going back to her childhood, Mary says she was considered a delicate child but her great age has shown her to be of robust nature and she cannot remember being in hospital, other than for the birth of Marita.

She watches television, roads with the aid of reading glasses, has a good appetite and is, of course Eu2,540 richer, following her receipt of the Presidential cheque.

Of the six Trundle siblings, Mary’s brothers, Joe (Cork), Willie (Dublin), and sisters, Mrs Kathleen Ryan (Dublin) and Mrs. Elsie Reddy of Tullow Road, Carlow are deceased.

Asked to what she attributes her long life, Mary Trundle Ratuski says that she has no real recipe for longevity but adds in a final flash of wit: “Put it down to a joint venture between myself and the Man Above.”

Courtesy of the Carlow Nationalist