Eileen (100) celebrates with special cheque from President
A REMARKABLE woman who reached her 100th birthday has become the first person to receive that special cheque from President Michael D Higgins.
Eileen Lovett yesterday brushed off any suggestion of "a major life achievement" and preferred to talk about her surprise when the Taoiseach called to her home in person to offer his congratulations on Monday.
She started driving at the age of 12 in Clifden, Co Galway, where her family ran a bakery. While still at primary school she used to collect butter in the bakery van for her mother.
"I forgot to renew my driving licence when I was 80 and had to take the test. I did it in Clifden and the man testing me said he never usually spoke to clients, but he wanted to know where I had learned to drive. I told him I had taught myself and he said I was an excellent driver.
"I gave up driving at 94 or 95 and my daughter does the driving now. But I don't feel any different than I did 20 years ago and I'm quite active," Eileen said.
When the official arrived at her home on the outskirts of Galway city to confirm that she was entitled to the President's €2,450 cheque on reaching 100, Eileen answered the door and the lady asked if her mother was in.
"I had to get an old driving licence to show her I was nearly 100. I got the cheque on November 17 and the President was only inaugurated on November 11," she said.
Eileen said she has no idea what the secret of longevity was, but admitted that being a non-smoker and teetotaller probably had something to do with it.
Family and friends celebrated her birthday at a hotel in Connemara last weekend and she planted a special tree to mark the occasion.