Local woman Lily Graham’s family have said she credits hard work, a strong faith and being able to recite Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address in its entirety for her longevity as she turned 100 years of age this week.
The children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and great, great grandchildren of Elizabeth (known as Lily or Nana) Graham gathered around her this week to celebrate the milestone, describing their ‘matriarch’ as ‘100 years young’.
The birthday celebration was held on Tuesday at Lenamore Stables, which was established by Lily’s daughter Geraldine on the site of the former Lenamore Dairy Lily ran with her late husband Lowry on the Donegal side of the border with Derry at Muff.
In a tribute to their mother, which was read out during the event, Lily’s family related how she was born on July 23, 1919, one of eight children to parents John and Margaret Roulston, residents of the townland of Roughan, the family also taking in an orphan boy John Magee “who was left in the pram with Lily”.
Growing up on a farm, Lily had regular trips into town with her mother and occasionally getting to choose some sweets from Woolworths. “It was here among the toffees, mint balls and penny chews that a fateful meeting took place, when, at the tender of seven, Lily’s path crossed with that of a boy called Lowry. They became friends and discovered that they had a good bit in common,” Lily’s daughter said.
Lily’s formal schooling ended at 14 and she went to work for the Houston family looking after their three children but home was calling and she returned to her family, working in the Metropole in Portrush seasonally and on the home farm. While back home, Lily became reacquainted with her future husband, who took to cycling 13 miles each way to step out with her on a Sunday, and they married in 1942. The couple moved to Lenamore, where they had seven children, although sadly Basil away at just 10 weeks old.
Recalling family life back then, Lily’s daughter said: “There was porridge put in the aga simmering oven before heading off to bed, the daily soda and wheaten bread, the Saturday night suppers when Lowry came home with the meat parcel.”
She also described how after the family had flown the nest, Geraldine had returned from Switzerland where she had been working with horses and “under Geraldine’s capable guidance... Lenamore Dairy became Lenamore Stables. “
Lowry sadly passed away in 2001, and Lily’s son Maurice died just last summer, and the family said their mother’s strong faith had seen her through these tough times.
“She is resolute in thinking that her longevity is due to her never avoiding hard work, and above all to her Christian faith which has seen her through good times and bad. You might not believe she is 100 years young - she certainly doesn’t look it. She attributes her wonderful complexion to washing her face only in cold water. Lily also firmly believes that her continuing mental sharpness is down to a very singular talent, which is her having learn, and still being able to recite, the Gettysburg Address in its entirety.”
“She is an inspiration to us all and to everyone who has had the pleasure to meet her.”