'Socially distant' 104th birthday celebrations for Mary McGrath

Mary McGrath 104th birthday

Pictured: Mary McGrath celebrates her 104th birthday with Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr John Sheehan, Lady Mayoress Aedamar Sheehan and her family, friends and neighbours (credit: Clare Keogh)

24th April 2020

Family, friends and neighbours of Mary McGrath joined the Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr John Sheehan and the Lady Mayoress, Aedamar Sheehan to belatedly celebrate her 104th birthday outside her home off Barrack Street in Cork city centre on Friday April 24.


The ‘physically distant’ celebration was organised by her friends at South Parish Old Folks Club, her nephew, Danny, her niece Geraldine Brosnan and by Ballyphehane Day Care and Ballyphehane/Togher Community Development Programme which she regularly attends and describes as ‘the club’.

Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr John Sheehan: “It was my honour to attend Mary’s birthday celebrations today. Mary has long been at the heart of her local community and at the heart of activities in the community and is loved by young and old in that area. She really is a local legend. Community spirit has burned bright in recent weeks and its fantastic to physically watch a community rally around and celebrate one of their older neighbours". 

A previously planned birthday celebration was postponed due to Covid-19 restrictions but Mary didn’t want it postponed any further so it took place today.


Mary, who never married and worked at Joyce’s lemonade factory in Cork and also at the Dairy Science School at UCC, attributes her health and longevity to “friendship”.

“I’ve always had lots of friends and lots of friends from different backgrounds. I’m part of the Ballyphehane Friendship Group and take part in the community education classes at the Day Care Centre where we have art, music and get to meet with lots of younger people too,” she said.

“I just enjoy people and like to stay connected with people. I would have loved to have invited everyone into the house for a cup of tea after the celebration today”.


Mary says she has “observed cocooning very strictly” in recent weeks and incredibly, used the time to do some ‘spring cleaning’.

“To be honest, I was a bit tired yesterday as I had done lots of work around the house the day before,” she quipped.

Mary was born on Easter Monday 1916 and still lives independently.

Siobhan O’Dowd, Project Co-Ordinator with Ballyphehane/Togher Community Development Programme said: "If Mary Mc Grath, who was born on the day of the Easter Rising, is a reflection of the health of the State, well our State is in a very good place. We are a State which is built on solid community, relationships and friendship ”.