First a 219-year-old Limerickman, now a 118-year-old woman discovered

Donal O’Regan

Reporter:

Donal O’Regan

AFTER the Leader’s story last week about a 219-year-old county man – if his headstone is to believed – it has emerged that Limerick was also home to one of the oldest women in the world.

AFTER the Leader’s story last week about a 219-year-old county man – if his headstone is to believed – it has emerged that Limerick was also home to one of the oldest women in the world.

Michael Quinlan’s discovery of a grave in Knockainey, from the late 1800s – with the number 219 for his age engraved on the tombstone – sparked the interest of Cappamore Historical Society.

Oliver Dillon, chairman, said there was a lady from Doon who lived to be 118 – and they have the death cert to prove it.

Born in 1790, Johanna Leonard (nee O’Connor) from Reenavanna, Doon died in 1908.

“We saw the story in last week’s Leader and we thought of Mrs Leonard. She married a Cappamore man and lived in Farnane. We have her death cert and it is there in black and white – age of last birthday is 118,” said Mr Dillon.

Unsurprisingly her cause of death is listed as “old age”. It is signed by the registrar of births and deaths in the Murroe district.

Coincidentally, the oldest current woman in the world, Koto Okubu, died at the age of 115 in Japan last week.

Mrs Leonard had a good three years on her.

“She must be the oldest person in Ireland and one of the oldest in the world,” said Mr Dillon. She would be third on the all-time oldest person list.

A respected figure in 19th century County Limerick, Mrs Leonard was often called on to sort out a dispute over a grave. She liked to smoke a pipe – it certainly didn’t do her any harm.

Mrs Leonard is featured in As Time Goes By – A Photographic Record of Cappamore published by the local historical society.

In 1906, when Mrs Leonard would have been 116, a huge flood swept away Glasha bridge. When asked to leave her house because of the threatening flood she refused, saying that she would “prefer to go down with her ship”.

It was said that Mrs Leonard used to visit her daughter in Gurtavalla, who was dying of old age when she was 82, from her home in Farnane in an ass and cart. She must have been over a hundred at that stage.

The photograph is believed to have been taken on her 100th birthday in 1890.

Mr Dillon puts her long life down to the clean Cappamore air and says she has still has descendants in the area.