A sprightly retired farmer John Murray from Clanvaraghan near Castlewellan was celebrating a special day on Sunday past (13th August). It was his 100th birthday!!
Now well cared for in Ardview House Residential Home in Ardglass, John was the centre of attention as friends, relations and staff at the home all wished him a happy birthday as he cut his cake and blew out the candles to mark the special occasion.
Speaking to Down News, John said: “It’s been a very interesting life. I grew up on the farm at Clanvaraghan where I was born, and worked there all my life.
“My parents Richard and Suzanne worked on the farm too and we raised livestock, mostly cattle and sheep, but I enjoyed looking after the horses the most. We bred show jumpers and we even had two all-Ireland winning horses at one stage.
“Back in those days, horses were important as there were very few cars around. People got about on carriages and buggies pulled by the horses, so we bred a few of those too as work horses.
“I am amazed at the changes there have been in farming since I was a wee lad. It has been a tough life for many farmers to make a living.
“I can remember too going to the Castlewellan show in the early days. I’m delighted to see that it has grown into one of Northern Ireland’s favourite agricultural shows. And Castlewellan town too has changed a lot. It has grown from a small market town to much bigger.”
John Murray retired from farming when he was 74 and lived on his farm until five years ago when he moved into Ardview House Residential Home in Ardglass. He said: “I am very happy there. The staff are just brilliant and the food is great too. I am very comfortable here. The views over towards Coney Island and towards the Mourne Mountains are just breathtaking.”
And to top the special day, John Murray received a letter from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth wishing him well on his birthday. She said: “I am so pleased to know that you are celebrating your 100th birthday on 13th August, 2017. I send my congratulations and best wishes to you on such a special occasion.” (Signed… Elizabeth.)
Mr David Lindsay, the Lord Lieutenant for County Down, also warmly congratulated John on reaching his 100th birthday. In a letter to him, the Lord Lieutenant said: “I am writing to you to congratulate you on your personal centenary. It will be your 100th birthday on Sunday. It is indeed a magnificent achievement to actually be on this planet for 100 years.
“I understand you were a farmer near Castlewellan and still own your own farm. I gather your interest was horses and that you looked after your sister for many years at your home on the Slievehanny Road.
“You will have seen some incredible changes over that time and I am sure that you have many happy memories of all those passing years and probably some sad ones as well. However, Sunday is a day of celebration and I hope you have a very happy birthday indeed. I understand that you are having a party at the home and many of your nieces and nephews will be there.
“It is strange to think that when you were born there there were virtually no aeroplanes, very few cars and no internet. You have see two world wars of course and Troubles in Northern Ireland come and thankfully subside again.
“Wishing you all my best wishes on your big day.”
John also received a special message from the Chief Executive of the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust, Hugh McCaughey, who said: “I would like to convey my congratulations to you as you reach your 100th birthday on Sunday. This is indeed a significant milestone and one worth celebrating.
“I understand you were a farmer and I guess you might say that your lifestyle in the fresh air has stood you in good stead. I am sure the staff and residents of Ardview will mark your birthday with a bit of a celebration on Sunday and I hope you enjoy your special day.
“Best Wishes for the year ahead.”