Emigrant Kathleen, aged 111, has become oldest ever Irish person
KATHLEEN Snavely is not just the oldest Irish person alive -- she is the oldest ever on record.
The woman from Co Clare who now lives in the US will turn 112 next month. But this week she passed a significant milestone by breaking the previous record for age.
Mrs Snavely reached the 327th day of her 111th year and in doing so surpassed the age of Katherine Plunkett, from Co Louth, an aristocrat who lived between 1820 and 1932.
Mrs Snavely, who lived in her own home until she reached 104 years of age, now lives in Syracuse in New York state at the Centres at St Camillus care facility. She left the Ireland of Michael Collins at just 19 as the country was struggling to get back on its feet after the War of Independence.
Her journey to the US aboard the RMS Scythia lasted eight days, taking her from Cobh, Co Cork, to Ellis Island at the dawn of the 'Roaring Twenties' and a New York where prohibition was in full swing.
Mrs Snavely has a number of relatives in Ireland including nephew Gerard Hayes, who lives in Limerick and keeps in regular contact with her by letter.
"She is a non-drinker and non-smoker. She was a very tall, striking woman in her day," he said.
Former Mayor of Clare, Pat Hayes, his brother renowned fiddle player Martin Hayes, and their sister Helen are also related to Mrs Snavely, as their father was her first cousin.
"It's great, I understand that she is in good health and very with it," Pat Hayes told the Irish Independent. "It's wonderful to think about all that she has lived through, she must have a wonderful story to tell," he added.
Kathleen married businessman Roxie Rollins, who died aged 66 in 1968. Two years later, aged 68, she married Jesse Snavely, a widower with three sons.
Mrs Snavely, who will celebrate her 112th birthday on February 16, is said to be reluctant to speak to the media.