Pressed for cash, Betty Smith and her husband started a homemade marmalade business in their 70s. It’s turned out to be fun and profitable, says Margaret Jennings.

HAVING a nip of poitín in the morning may seem risky, but you can when you spread some marmalade, A Taste of Irish Spirit, on your toast. 

It has been created by 80-year-old Betty Smith who lives in West Cork.

Whatever about the poitín-infused marmalade, we could all do with a ‘taste’ of Betty’s unquenchable zest for life. 

She and her 83-year-old husband, Jim, now supply the marmalade to SuperValu stores and independent outlets, having started the business four years ago.

At the start of the week, they make the marmalade in their kitchen. 

At the end of the week, they hop in their car and spend two days delivering all around Cork county.

Ageing with attitude: Betty Smith's zest for life is infused with lemon

“It’s great fun,” Betty says. 

“We use two big pans in the kitchen, old-fashioned-style. That makes about four dozen jars. 

"Our dining room is gone now, though — it’s now the marmalade room. We have shelves on two sides, with empty jars and full jars.”

So how did the two pensioners, who retired from Britain to the village of Newcestown outside Bandon 20 years ago, get into business in their late 70s, when most of their peers would prefer to be eating the marmalade, rather than making it?

“We were a bit bothered about bills coming in, like for the phone and electric, and, in addition to that, we have our dogs. We got a rather large vet bill and we couldn’t pay the money, and I decided I would try and get some cash by earning it and I didn’t know what to do. 

"But necessity being the mother of invention, I took a look around my home and I had one of those tins of orange pulp and my husband had bought a bottle of poitín from Killarney — it’s legal poitín, by the way — and I mixed them until I got the right taste."

But before she could trek off to farmers’ markets with her produce, she had to get the cash to fund the venture: “And so, to start the business up, because we had no cash, we went into our attic and we gathered up stuff that might be called collectibles — and I call junk — and we brought them to car-boot sales and got the money, which started us off on this wonderful journey.”

Ageing with attitude: Betty Smith's zest for life is infused with lemon

Betty sources her poitín from a distillery in Skibberreen, West Cork Distillery, and she has added two other flavours to the range: the second, cinnamon and cloves, has won three awards and has sold particularly well. 

“Musgraves then said we should get another line out, so we started to make lemon, ginger, and poitín.”

Betty had two other skills in her back pocket. 

She had attended, age 74, an Age Action Get Started computer training course, in Bandon, because she was “continually seeing adverts in magazines” referring readers to websites and she knew nothing about computers.

“I’m so grateful for that, because, afterwards, when the whole idea of the marmalade-making started, I was then able to Google where I could get supplies. 

"From learning how to switch on the computer to sending emails and pictures of my product over the internet, I wouldn’t have known how to do that without the course. It’s essential, really, for a business, to be able to use the computer.”

Her second skill came from a career she had in her earlier years, as a forensic scientist for the Home Office, in Britain. 

“That, again, helped me with the business, because in that job we had to research and go down every possible avenue to get the best result — after all, someone’s freedom was at stake, wasn’t it?” she says.

She gave up that career when the laboratory moved and her only child, Catherine, was at a crucial stage of her education. But she found other ways to earn, including taking in students from the local polytechnic as lodgers.

Betty’s fitness — she and Jim walk their three dogs every day — and adaptability to life’s challenges has obviously stood by her. 

So what other tips for ageing healthily does she suggest? 

“Be curious,” she advises. 

“Ask about everything and go into everything. Have an open mind and enquire into everything that interests you. And be flexible!”

A gardening club she started up with a neighbour 20 years ago is still going strong. And she had to give up her chairmanship of the local retirement group after she had her gallbladder removed and, after that, a cataract procedure.

But that didn’t crush her indomitable spirit, hence her current, new adventure.

Even though they sometime have an early start to make deliveries, there are no complaints.

“We get to talk to all sorts of people — the whole business is so exciting and marvellous. It’s great fun.”

Menopause lift

Ageing with attitude: Betty Smith's zest for life is infused with lemon

A new Irish multivitamin claims to ease menopausal symptoms for women, including night time sweats, hot flushes, decreased libido, weight gain, mood swings, and fatigue, due to the decrease in oestrogen production which occurs at that time. 

The krill oil blended capsules, called Cleanmarine MenoMin for Women, €24.99, contain Omega 3 phospholipids plus folate, biotin, B vitamins, soy isoflavones and vitamin D3. 

Following a recent three-month study, commissioned by Cleanmarine, focusing on menopausal symptoms, 84% of the women involved felt that just two capsules taken daily had a positive effect on symptoms.

Forever Faithfull

Ageing with attitude: Betty Smith's zest for life is infused with lemon

She is 69 now and throughout her well-documented celebrity life of ups and downs — of addiction and ill health— she has sung her way in her gravelly voice, producing 21 albums along the way. 

Marianne Faithfull’s latest work, due out on October 7 and called No Exit, is a live album and DVD, presenting the ‘best of’ collection of her acclaimed performances in Europe in 2014, during her 50th anniversary tour.

The live album appears hand in hand with the release of her 2014 Budapest concert video and four highlight songs from her 2016 performance at the Roundhouse in London when she performed ‘in the round’ with her band. 

As a singer, songwriter and sometimes actress, Faithfull has proven that despite battling many demons life goes on — as an adventure.

Ageing quote

“Live your life and forget your age"

— US author Norman Vincent Peale

Silver surfer

How you should be exercising as you age http://bit.ly/2d1wl5l 


Lifestyle

We take a trip back through the Wolves singer’s most major fashion moments.As Selena Gomez surprises fans with new music, these are some of her best style moments

There’s a “Not In Kansas, anymore” at the very beginning of Lankum’s new take on boozy standard, ‘The Wild Rover’. The 10 minute-plus recording starts with a caterwauling note that hangs jaggedly in the air.Lankum shining a light on the dark side of Irish culture

There is something irrepressibly cheerful about pumpkins. They come on the scene just when you need them and don’t linger on too much after. Their bright, orange glow warming up garden patches and grocery store isles on grey Autumn days.Want to make use of your leftover pumpkin? The Currabinny Cooks have the best recipes

Phil Coulter is one of Ireland’s most successful songwriters and producers, selling millions of records and going on to enjoy international solo success with his Tranquility albums.My life in music: Phil Coulter publishes his memoir

More From The Irish Examiner