104-year-old Mary enjoys her first Zoom call after beating Covid-19

Mary McGrath is preparing to celebrate her 105th birthday next month and has lived through the Spanish flu, two World Wars and was born on the day of the Easter Rising
104-year-old Mary enjoys her first Zoom call after beating Covid-19

Mary McGrath, 104, received a personal letter from Cork's Lord Mayor, Cllr Joe Kavanagh. Picture: Jim Coughlan

A remarkable 104-year-old woman who has just beaten Covid-19 has been hailed an inspiration after adding her first digital footprint to the world she’s walked in for over a century.

Mary McGrath, who was born on the day of the 1916 Easter Rising, and who has lived through the Spanish flu pandemic and two World Wars, enjoyed her first Zoom call at Bishopscourt Nursing Home in Cork on Friday, thanks to a new Acorn tablet presented to her by friends during a window visit.

Siobhán O’Dowd of Ballyphehane Togher Community Development Programme, also presented her with a personalised ‘Senior Play Pack’ – one of 4,500 such packs which have been distributed to elderly cocooners across the city.

Each pack, which comes with the message “we only grow old when we stop playing”, includes a deck of playing cards, puzzles, a bird feeder, seed and colouring pencils. But Ms McGrath’s pack included the tablet to help her stay connected with her family and wide circle of friends.

Siobhan O'Dowd, Ballyphehane Togher CDP, delivering a personal letter from Cork's Lord Mayor, Cllr Joe Kavanagh and an Acorn tablet to Mary McGrath in Bishopscourt Residential Care facility, Cork. Picture: Jim Coughlan
Siobhan O'Dowd, Ballyphehane Togher CDP, delivering a personal letter from Cork's Lord Mayor, Cllr Joe Kavanagh and an Acorn tablet to Mary McGrath in Bishopscourt Residential Care facility, Cork. Picture: Jim Coughlan

The device has been loaded with some of her treasured photographs and she used it to take her first Zoom call – from the Lord Mayor of Cork, Joe Kavanagh.

“I’m proud and privileged to be your first Zoom caller,” he said.

You were a very unique part of our events to celebrate Cork Learning City and it’s great that you’re continuing lifelong learning, aged 104, and proving that everyone with the right supports can become part of the digital age.” 

Ms O’Dowd said: “On the anniversary of the first lockdown in Ireland, we’re all Covid weary, tired of keeping on keeping on, but half an hour with Mary and those of us privileged to be there left with a pep in our step and a determination to go that extra mile, cheered that the end-point finally looks to be in sight.” 

Ms McGrath, who lives independently on the southside of Cork city,  thanks to great support from family, neighbours and friends, broke a bone in her arm in a fall at Christmas and was hospitalised. She contracted Covid in hospital, and was seriously ill for some time, before she rallied.

She is now being cared for at Bishopscourt Nursing Home, where plans are already under way to mark her 105th birthday next month.

Just weeks into the first lockdown last April, Ms McGrath celebrated her 104th birthday outside her home, with a physically distanced party with friends and neighbours.

Mary McGrath was presented with a Senior Play Pack and flowers. Picture: Jim Coughlan
Mary McGrath was presented with a Senior Play Pack and flowers. Picture: Jim Coughlan

But as the pandemic took hold and lockdown restrictions tightened, she had to withdraw from her daily routine of activities at the Ballyphehane Community Centre, and cocooned at home.

Born on Easter Monday, 1916, within two years she faced the Spanish Flu epidemic.

She went on to work in Joyce’s lemonade factory in Cork city, before she got a job in UCC’s dairy science department where she recalls the joy of testing ice-creams. She was honoured by UCC five years ago for her involvement in lifelong learning.

And the secret of her long and happy life?

“I never married and had a lot of friends,” she said.

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