Tuesday 23 July 2019

Dundalk's oldest man, 'Wee Georgie'

Forty years ago this week, on November 26th, 1968, Dundalk's oldest man, George Casey, or otherwise known to generation of Dundalk people as "Wee George" died.

He was reputed to be 111 years old while his birth certificate was never authenticated he received the Presidential bounty of £5 in 1957 after three years of extensive research.

Ironically he wasn't Louth's oldest person for the Hon. Katherine Plunkett from Ballymascanlon House who died on October 14th, 1932 was in her 112th year and at that time was the third oldest person to survive to that age in the world.

The generation of Dundalk folk who will remember 'Georgie' will know that he had another name "Georgie Forty Coats' which he inherited from the number of coats that he wore to keep himself warm.

He was unique in size. 5ft or less, and will be best remembered playing his melodeon and holding children enthralled by telling them children's stories.

'Georgie' was thougbt to be a native of Cork and it was belived that he arrived in Dundalk in the early part of the 20th century with a football team and never returned.

It was not known until years after his death that he was married at one stage and that his wife died before he arrived in Dundalk.

'Georgie' was a bottle gathered in town in the 1920's which he sold back to various establishments, surviving on the proceeds. He acquired the pension in 1957 and it was accepted that he was not more then 70 at the time.

He survived on handouts from people and was a familiar sight round town wheeling his small barrow in which he kept his entire belongings.

He lived rough for some years but eventually lived with a Ernie Watters and his family at No. 1 Military Barracks. He was living at Castletown Cross in 1957 when aged 100 and a neighbour recalled that he would leave his home at 10.a.m. with his wheel barrow and return about 9.00 p.m.

Later he got a house in Rampart Lane after the rector of the Green Church went to the Council on his behalf and 'Georgie' spent the latter years of his life in St. Oliver's where he died.

Sadly there was an objection to the President awarding him the £5 with the objector describing him as a "little wizened elderly man earning, or rather knocking out some kind of a living as an apology for an itinerant musician".

The objector disputed his age, but the President Sean T. O'Kelly wrote to 'Georgie' saying "after inquiries sufficient evidence exists to warrant the assumption that Mr. George Casey has attained the age of £5.

After his death there was no one to claim the body and 'Georgie' was buried in an unmarked grave in St. Patrick's cemetery, but some years back, through the good offices of Rev. Stanley Millen sufficient funds were raised to erect a headstone which bears his age and a verse from Isaiah "He who died at a hundred will be thought a mere youth'