Margaret defies the odds to celebrate her 90th birthday

Margaret Boyle. (0402PG14)
Margaret Boyle. (0402PG14)

For a woman given just 18 months to live a decade ago, Margaret Boyle is in remarkably good health.

And the Derry woman will celebrate her 90th birthday in fine style this Sunday when over 50 family members turn up for a massive party in the city.

Margaret was diagnosed with cancer ten years ago and after being told by doctors that her condition was terminal, she moved into the Foyle Hospice.

But she defied the odds to conquer the disease and a decade on, now living in Daleview House in the Waterside, is the picture of health.

Margaret has never forgotten the friends that she made at the Foyle Hospice and has become an avid fundraiser, handing them thousands of pounds with her efforts over the years.

She lost her husband Alex to cancer in 1996 before her own diagnosis, and then last year her daughter Faustina died from the same illness.

It was while she was at the Foyle Hospice that she discovered a love of painting and it has been the sale of these over the years which have helped her to raise money towards the charity.

“The residents here at Daleview and my family help me raise the money,” Margaret says.

“It’ll be lovely to be able to give something back because I met such lovely people and staff there.”

Margaret grew up in Violet Street in the Waterside and later lived in Bishop Street and she worked in both the Star Factory and Tillie’s And Henderson.

And she has seen some big chances in the city since her childhood.

“It was very sad to see Tillie’s going. My father had worked there,” she recalled.

“During the war I remember the bombing of Pennyburn. I went with Alex, who wasn’t my husband at the time, to see what had happened the next morning and it was just terrible.”

Margaret and Alex married during the war in August 1944 and were among the first to be married inside the altar at St Eugene’s Cathedral.

Now as her 90th birthday approaches this weekend, Margaret can reflect on a marriage which produced 11 children, 29 grandchildren and 22 great grandchildren, most of whom will be at the celebrations this weekend.

She can recall living through the worst of the Troubles in the Bogside and reflects that not all of the changes she has seen in her lifetime have been for the worse.

“I remember the children having to go to school during the worst of the trouble and I’m glad that is all over,” she says.

These days Margaret loves nothing more than the chance to get out for a breath of fresh air - and she’s planning to be right at the front of the queue when the new Peace Bridge opens in the city later this year.

“I can’t wait to be one of the first to go across,” she says.