Sunday 19 November 2017 04:46:37 AM

Ballynahinch Ladies Celebrate 205 Years of Birthdays
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BALLYNAHINCH has seen an exceptional event just before Christmas as two ladies have celebrated their birthdays… one is 105, the other 100.

To mark this special occasion, Elizabeth Heaney, a spritely 105-year old attended mass at St Patrick’s Church in the town with members of her family. Afterwards there was a presentation to her in the church hall of a bunch of flowers by Councillor Eamonn O’ Neill, Chairman of Down District Council, and Ballynahinch area Councillor Anne McAleenan who joined in marking the occasion.

Mrs Elizabeth Heaney celebrated her 105th Birthday on Christmas Eve. Her daughter Evelyn said, “My mother was born in Ballynahinch and attended the old St Patrick’s school before she went out to work. There was no secondary school in those days. She married James Heaney who had a farm at Drumkeeragh and lived there up until the seventies. Then they bought a house and retired to Ballynahinch. Elizabeth and James have five daughters and a son.”

Evelyn added, “My mother is still quite active and alert, and attends Mass every Sunday. She attended a birthday party recently for her five year old great-grand-daughter.”

Down Council Chairman Councillor Eamonn O’Neill said, “This is a remarkable occasion and Down District Council would like to wish each of these special ladies a very happy and memorable birthday and good health for the future”.

Elizabeth Heaney, front centre, in the church hall in St Patrick's Church in Ballynahinch with her five daughters on her 105th birthday. Pictured are, back row, Shiela, Evelyn and Mary, with front row, Kathleen and Margaret.

Ballynahinch man Vincent Fullam, related to Elizabeth Heaney, also added, “Elizabeth is a remarkable lady. Despite her age she is still very active, and is trendy and dresses well. It is amazing that she was driving her car up until recently. She has been inundated with cards from friends and well-wishers and is very proud of her cards from the Queen and Irish President Mary McAleese.

“Elizabeth is a gentle lady, and enjoys her family life very much.”

Sr Hyacinth of the Assumption Convent in Ballynahinch also celebrated her 100th Birthday on Tuesday 21st December, 2010.

Born in 1910, in Maghery, outside Portadown, Sr Hyacinth, then known as Margaret Mary Connolly, was one of a family of ten children. Her childhood was spent happily among the orchards of Co Armagh and even today, despite a lifetime away from it, she remains proudly an Armagh woman.

Sr Maureen Bonaventure commenting at the birthday celebration, said, “Having completed her secondary education at Mount Sackville Convent School in Dublin, Margaret continued her studies at University College Dublin and graduated with a B Com with Irish and her H Dip Ed.  Teaching was her chosen career and soon she obtained a post in the Assumption Convent High School in Ballynahinch.

“After a few years teaching Margaret felt another call and became Missionary Sister of the Assumption in the convent where she was already a member of staff.  Sister Hyacinth, as she then became known, continued to teach throughout her working life mainly in Ireland and for a shorter time in South Africa.  She has served God and his people a Missionary Sister of the Assumption now for sixty nine years.

Sr Hyacinth, celebrating her 100th birthday, pictured at the Ballynahinch Assumption Convent with Down District Council Chairman Councillor Eamonn O'Neill and Ballynahinch Councillor Anne McAleenan.

“Sr Hyacinth is remembered by past pupils as an inspiring teacher of Irish who through her enthusiastic teaching and quiet encouragement instilled in many a deep-rooted love of their native language and culture. Her presence in the school was characterised by gentleness and thoroughness. In a career which spanned over forty years, she served the school as Head of Irish and in the later years as Vice Principal until her retirement in 1976.

“Her care and concern for others were expressed in various ways. One way in which this striking attribute was expressed was in the vast range of past pupils with whom she kept in contact over many years. Her extensive letter-writing was not only an expression of friendship but a means of pastoral outreach as well. Sadly in her later years failing eyesight meant that letter writing and her other favourite occupation of reading were no longer possible for her.

“However, Sr Hyacinth has been a deeply spiritual person throughout her life and we know that her prayer continues to embrace all those people wherever they may be.

“Blessed with a delightful sense of humour, Sr Hyacinth still regales the community with her witticisms and amusing anecdotes.  It is so typical of her that her carers have aptly described her as ‘a real little lady’, and that indeed she is.” added Sr Maureen.