With her 90th birthday just days away, Derry woman Mary Callen has revealed that “doing mad things” is what keeps her youthful.
A self-proclaimed “daredevil”, the near-noctogenarian was as active in the last 20 years of her life as many would hope to be in their first 20 years. From sky diving to belly dancing and line dancing to scuba diving, Granny Callen certainly lived life to the full in her 70s and 80s.
She aims to continue her fun-filled lifestyle by staying as active as possible.
Having taken up swimming at 65, the pensioner - who currently lives at Edanmount in the Glen area - can be found in the City Baths at William Street each and every morning for her daily workout.
“I’ve come here every day for the last 25 years,” the oldest swimmer in town told the ‘Journal’.
“I didn’t know how to swim at all before that but since then I’ve done all sorts of things. I did a parachute jump from 10,000 feet in my 70s - it was great looking down on all the people, they were like little midges. I said to the man ‘can you not go up any higher and he looked at me and said what kind of woman are you? - I replied ‘I’m a daredevil, I’ll try anything’.” She added: “I just love doing mad things, doing mad things keeps you young - so my advice is go out and do mad things and keep doing them.
“I may be nearly 90 but I’m still a daredevil,” Mary added. Up until recently Mary could be seen regularly doing handstands in the pool at William Street during the ladies’ morning swim sessions. “People would only see the soles of my feet with me upside down in the pool - it was a great bit of fun.”
Daughter Gay Durkan, who was with her mum at the pool on Wednesday, said Mary was an inspiration. “She’s nearly 90 now and she’s determined to come swimming every day and really enjoys it. When she started swimming after retiring as a cleaner-caretaker at St Mary’s College not many ladies her age were swimming. She’s been a real inspiration and continues to be. She’s done so many exciting things - she took up belly dancing for a while in her 80s and did a life saving course in her 70s as well as trying scuba diving and even a parachute jump.” For Mary, the most senior of the City Baths swimmers, the fun wouldn’t be near as great without the kindness and helpful support of the “wonderful staff” and patrons.