'Hard work, prayer and small meals' secrets to living to 104, says Limerick nun

First principal of Ballynanty school is the oldest nun living at Mount St Vincent on O’Connell Avenue

Anne Sheridan


Anne Sheridan



'Hard work, prayer and small meals' secrets to living to 104, says Limerick nun

Sr Eileen Doyle, of Mount St Vincent, O’Connell Avenue

‘HARD work, prayer and eating lightly’ are among the secrets to longevity, said Sr Eileen Doyle, who celebrated her 104th birthday this Saturday.

A second cousin of the executed patriot Kevin Barry, Sr Eileen, who is the oldest nun living at Mount St Vincent on O’Connell Avenue, planned to quietly celebrate the day, and did not want any party in honour of her longevity.

The second youngest in a family of nine, she has out-lived all her siblings, and her parents.

The first principal of Ballynanty school in Limerick, she said she was “always a healthy little devil” and has few vices, bar her sweet tooth. A pioneer for years, she still rarely has an alcoholic drink.

“I worked hard, I think that kept me going. I eat lightly, but still I eat enough. I’ve never had a serious illness, and love reading and music.”

Born on July 22, 1913 in Wicklow, she shares her birth date, she noted, with Prince George of Cambridge, in addition to the late fashion designer Oscar de la Renta.

She was only seven years old when her famous cousin Kevin Barry was the first republican to be executed by the British since the leaders of the Easter Rising, in November 1920, at the age of 18.

Eleven years his junior, she said her cousin’s family lived over the border in Carlow, and while she was too young to remember those dramatic days, she recalled that one of Kevin Barry’s favourite songs was Bantry Bay.

While Sr Eileen has lived in Limerick for most of her life, she also lived in America for 11 years, teaching in Florida and in Mobile, Alabama in the 1970s.

When the convent closed at Mount St Vincent some years ago, Sr Eileen was one of some 23 nuns who moved to a new, more modern home on the same grounds.

However, she said that number has now dwindled as some nuns have moved to live in nursing homes, but generally she noted that they have all lived to a great age.

Looking back, she says that joining the nuns was the right decision for her.

“I’m happier that I chose this way of life. I don’t know would I have been able to face all those problems that married people have.”

On her 100th birthday, Sr Eileen received the centenarian bounty of €2,540 from President Michael D. Higgins, which is paid to Irish citizens when they turn 100.

The oldest living Limerick woman is believed to be Bridie MacNeil, from Glin, who turned 105 on St Valentine’s day, February 14 last.

She is one of just fifteen 105 year-olds in the State, according to the office of the President.

The third eldest in a family of nine, she has also outlived her fellow eight siblings, and enjoys a drop of Baileys liqueur in her coffee before bedtime each time, which she said helps her sleep.