100th birthday celebrations for Mary
On May 29th, Mary Bourke achieved what very few do as she reached a huge milestone in her life, celebrating her 100th birthday.
Born a century ago in 1920, she was the daughter of James and Johannah Gleeson and was raised in Garryard, Silvermines. All the Gleesons in the 'Mines had nicknames at the time, theirs being Whelan.
One of six children, she grew up in the picturesque surroundings of the Silvermines mountains living in a thatched white-washed farmhouse. Her homestead was across the road from the eventual site of what was to become the Mogul mineworks. This led to her family having to leave their abode and they moved a mile or so to Lower Ballinoe.
Mary received her early education in the tranquil setting of Silvermines NS while helping out on the family farm. Farming back then was a far cry from today and while it may have been seen as a simple lifestyle, it had its own hardships - hand-milking cows, with donkeys and horses and their carts doubling up as transport and machinery of the time. Many happy days were spent making trams of hay and drinking tea in the meadow.
Mary’s husband was the late Liam Bourke from the Five Alley in the neighbouring parish of Ballywilliam and, like so many others in the 1950s, they emigrated to England and settled in Ongar, Essex, where all their children were born. There was a strong Irish community during their stay in the 1950s/'60s and they had many links to home with neighbours, friends and other family members who also emigrated. They also forged friendships with their English neighbours, some of whom are still in contact with Mary today.
Every year the Bourke family would travel home for their summer holidays to the Silvermines, and with Mary and Liam anxious to return home and rear their family in Ireland, they returned in May 1970 and settled in Nenagh. Mary spent her life after returning caring for her family and making sure they received a good education. Her favourite hobby in life was going to Bingo in places such as Nenagh, Kilruane, Borrisoleigh, Borrisokane, Shinrone, etc.
Living to 100 also means that obviously there have been sad times and she has lost so many close relatives - her parents, all her brothers and sister - as she is the last member of the Gleeson family still living. Mary always had a deep faith and this faith helped her to cope with these deaths and especially the deaths of her husband Liam, baby son James, daughter Mary and grandson Adrian.
Mary is a great woman for praying and lighting candles, and she listens in to all the Masses on the Nenagh Parish radio link every day while lately listening in to the Sunday morning Mass on Tipp FM. Mary now lives in St John's Terrace and has a wonderful home helper, Marian Tomlinson.
She is so happy to have her three daughters close-by - Josephine (Terry) Ryan (Ballywilliam), Christine (Tina) O'Meara (Toomevara) and Paula McSherry (Ardcroney). She also has 15 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren, and she dotes on each and every one of them.
Mary’s 100th celebrations had to be a low-key affair, but she was delighted to receive a blessing last Friday from Fr Michael Geraghty, even though it had to be a social distancing one! Here’s to many more happy days for Mary!