death of Carlow's oldest resident
September 26 2007
William (Bill) Burgess, County Carlow's oldest resident, sadly passed away
last week after 105 years. Bill was celebrated locally in Tobinstown
and across the county for his long life and passed away peacefully on
Monday, 17th September 2007 in Glendale Nursing Home. His good health
and keen spirits belied his age with Bill thoroughly enjoying his 105th
birthday in June.
Living in his home place in Tobinstown, Tullow, with his son Edwin and
his family, the only thing that held the man back in recent years was his
failing sight. My father never said what his secret to long life was,
'Edwin told the Carlow People, but he always said he'd be ready when God
called him. Maybe the secret was that he took a mug of hot water and a bowl
of porridge for his breakfast every morning.'
Bill was born in 1902, one of ten children and worked all his life on his
farm. Indeed, in good farming tradition, he met his future wife, Dolly
Smythe of Coolmanagh, over the buying of a cow. The couple married in
the late 1950's and had one child, Edwin. Sadly, after just three years of
marriage, Dolly passed away, leaving behind a heartbroken Bill.
Bill had previously lost his brother, Rupert who was killed in World War
One and Vivian who died as a result of the red flu in 1918. Bill's
long life meant that he saw the world and his locality change over and over
again. He'd talk about the old days, and would note the changes, from the
struggle of living in 1930's Ireland through to the prosperous late 20th
He was a man who never took a drink and who at the tender age of 30, gave
up smoking. As a younger man, Bill was a known point-to-point jockey and won
many races in his time.
Working on his farm kept him fit and agile but while most other people
would retire in their 60's, Bill continued tending the land and the stock
until he was pushing 90. In his mind, he never really retired,' Edwin
recalled. You couldn't really nail down when he stopped working because in
his head, he wasn't old. He just couldn't understand how people would
complain about being stiff or not being able to get about when they got
older.' Right into old age, Bill was out and about and only stopped
driving at around his 90th birthday. Delighted to reach his 100th birthday,
Bill was really proud of the five medals he'd received from President
McAleese since then.
Bill's funeral service took place in St. Mary's Church, Rathvilly after
which burial took place in the adjoining cemetery. He is survived and
deeply missed by Edwin, Norah, Neil and Fiona, nieces, nephews, relatives
Source: Michael Purcell
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