Kathleen Shiels, the queen of Bridge Street in Carndonagh, celebrated her 90th birthday on Tuesday 21 April.
The lockdown means that she could not have a big celebration with her family, friends and neighbours, so instead we gave her a big shout out through the pages of the Inishowen Independent and here on our website.
It’s a very different birthday to the one that her family had planned for her, but across Inishowen and around the globe – in Carndonagh, Castlemilk and Clonmany; in Australia Antrim and Ardersier; in Buncrana, Belfast, Buckinghamshire and Bristol; in Dublin, Drogheda, Derry and Dundee; in Galway and Glasgow, and in Letterkenny, Moville, Fort William, Kirkcaldy and Edinburgh – family and friends will be thinking of her and sending their best wishes.
Nonagenarian Kathleen always has her family and friends at heart and keeps an open door at Bridge Street with kind words, a caring heart and the best of craic.
“I have always enjoyed my life no matter what age I was,” she says when asked about her secret of long life. “I have a very good doctor and I do what she tells me.”
Born in Slavary, Buncrana, on Easter Monday 21 April 1930, Kathleen married Jimmy Shiels and the young couple lived in Glasgow and Inverness for a time before returning to Carndonagh where they had nine children. That family has grown over the years and Kathleen enjoys the company of her 21 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
On their return from Scotland, Kathleen and Jimmy revived the old tradition of spinning in this part of the country and their son Johnny carries on the tradition today. And having learned to spin Kathleen then took to weaving – on a loom specially made for her by Jimmy.
Kathleen has enjoyed a long and active retirement. She helped launch a charity shop in Carn and worked in it for many years. Nowadays, she’s one of its best customers. She took up painting when aged in her 70s, and her oil landscapes now hang in many of her family’s homes. Until the lockdown, she kept herself busy through the Carn active retirement group and bingo twice a week and was never off the phone.
Ever up for a new challenge, since the recent restrictions cocooning and forbidding travel Kathleen has entered the world of social media, proving that you are never too old to learn something new.
With her new smartphone, iPad and WhatsApp group chat, she is staying in touch with her grandchildren and great grandchildren around the world – a job in itself keeping up with this lively bunch as they entertain her with their music, challenges and chats.
As for birthday gifts, she doesn’t want any. “Sure what would I need at 90,” Kathleen says, contented with her lot.
But she is particularly supportive of charities that support premature babies following the premature birth of great granddaughter Charlotte, and anyone minded to support one of those charities would be welcome to do so.