Maureen’s 90th party is very much a family affair in Limerick

Maureen Toomey pictured at her 90th birthday party on Sunday with her 15 living children

Maureen Toomey pictured at her 90th birthday party on Sunday with her 15 living children

EASTER Sunday brought a very special celebration for Maureen Toomey when she celebrated her 90th birthday at her home in Curraghbeg, Adare, in the company of her 15 children, 28 grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren.

Maureen was born Maureen Collins of Adare on April 3, 1928 and married Paddy Toomey in April 1948. They had 16 children but sadly a tragic accident took the young life of their second child John in 1974. Most of the remaining 15 children live on in Co Limerick with some settled in America and England.

Paddy and Maureen farmed  their small property in Black Abbey Adare. As Maureen recalls, “I knew nothing about farming but it wasn’t long before Paddy said to me, ‘you’ll have to learn to milk a cow’,  so he started me on a quiet cow, that cow was so quiet that if you had a baby with you on the stool she wouldn’t budge an inch.”

That started Maureen’s love of agriculture. “I loved farming all my life, there was plenty of hard work between rearing the young family and all the farm work – milking cows by hand, ploughing with horses,  but there were great days at the threshing and bringing in the hay with the horse drawn float.

“There were tough times too with little money, but we stuck together and the whole family got involved in the farm as they grew up.”

It was 23 years after they got married before Maureen and Paddy  could take their first real holiday. They visited their daughter Mary in England in 1971.  

Since then better times meant they could visit the children who had moved to America. In the days before strict baggage restrictions Maureen recalls how on the way home at the airport in New York she had no less than seven bags to the consternation of the airport official.

 “He looked at me and all the bags and I said to him I have 15 children and 28 grand-children, I had to get them presents.”

He waved her on with a smile.

Maureen’s husband Paddy studied accountancy as a young man and was the accountant in the local Dunraven Estates before he inherited the family farm.

Paddy had a passion for maths and this turned out to be a mixed blessing for his young children as they were put through their paces doing the maths homework and of course he wouldn’t hesitate to challenge the nun if there was any question about the correct answer to a complex equation.

He was also  involved in farming politics and was on the board of Golden Vale Creameries. Paddy died in 2004.

When asked the usual question about the recipe for a long life Maureen Toomey is brief and precise.“Hard work - that’s all”, she declares with a smile.

It is a recipe she is still following. But now, while still working hard, her enjoyable challenge now is keeping up with all the activities and achievements of her 28 grand-children including the inevitable love stories that ebb and flow in the extended Toomey family.