Friday 15 December 2017

Sheila stands up to be counted for a 16th time

Majella O'Sullivan

SHE was too young to remember the first one, but when Sheila O'Donoghue fills out her census form on Sunday it will be the 16th census that she has been recorded on.

Mrs O'Donoghue (100) was just a few months old when she featured on the 1911 Census as 'Julia Foley' of New Road, Killarney.

There were 12 inhabitants in Charlie Foley's bar that night and 'Julia' was the youngest of the seven children of its owners, Charles and Ellen Foley.

Her older siblings Tim, Maurice, Eileen, Charlie, May and Albert also feature, along with three boarders who were in the household that night.

Tragic circumstances led to the family setting up home in Killarney.

"My parents lived in Liverpool and then they bought the place in Killarney. Their first three children were born in England but they all died," Mrs O'Donoghue said.

"They were advised to move back home and as it turned out that advice proved right and the rest of their family survived."

Mrs O'Donoghue's name was recorded as 'Julia' -- the English form of Sheila.

"I've never lived away from Killarney. I was born on New Street and I moved to Main Street when I got married and then we came out to the Gleneagle and I suppose at this stage I'll finish up here," she said.

Mrs O'Donoghue and her late husband Paddy started the Gleneagle Hotel in 1956. The first documented guests stayed in 1957. They had bought it as a family home, attracted by the space it offered their brood. How it came into being a hotel was another accident.

"The Lake Hotel was overbooked one night and the Huggard family asked if we could give them rooms and that's how it started," she said.

For someone who got into the business by accident, Mrs O'Donoghue developed a passion for it and only retired from reception duties seven years ago.


She turns 101 in August, but still likes to keep an eye on the business and is constantly consulted by members of the family.

Since the 1911 Census went online in December 2007, it has recorded 500 million hits and 11 million people have visited the site looking for information on their family history.

The O'Donoghue family has never had to resort to online research -- Mrs O'Donoghue's 30 grandchildren and 34 great-grandchildren have a living link to the past.

"Anything we want to know, we just ask Grandmammy," said her granddaughter Aoife.

Asked if she ever envied the time her grandchildren or great-grandchildren were born into, Mrs O'Donoghue, who was born in 1910 said: "No. I've always been very happy and enjoyed life."

Irish Independent

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