Mollie O’Driscoll, a woman linked to one of Bangor’s longest established hospitality businesses, celebrated her centenary on Saturday.
Mollie’s father Bernard Hillen acquired the Ava bar after the Second World War, and it remained in the Hillen family until recent years.
Mollie was born on Belmont Road, Belfast, on September 9, 1923, and as a child moved with her family to the Brunswick Road in Bangor.
“She used to swim at Pickie and has lots of great memories of growing up here,” says her granddaughter Nicki Mansour, who visits Mollie three times a week at her Cleland Park home.
In her younger days Mollie was a keen sportswoman and at one time was regional badminton champion.
She was extremely proud to have had a tennis lesson with the legendary Wimbledon champion, Fred Perry.
As Nicki explains, “The opportunity came up so she took it.”
Mollie was also passionate about horse riding and was a member of Donaghadee Golf Club until recent years.
Her interests also included breeding dogs to the highest standard and she enjoyed a number of wins at Crufts.
Says Nicki: “She bred Rhodesian Ridgebacks which are from South Africa. Her brother moved out there and I think that’s where she fell in love with the breed.
“She also had Basenjis which don’t bark, they yodel and they have curly tails.”
Mollie worked for the Inland Revenue and after her first husband Leo sadly died, she married Jack O’Driscoll, who lived on the Bryansburn Road in Bangor.
The couple settled for many years in Navan where Jack worked as a bank manager and Mollie gave up her job with the Inland Revenue.
The couple returned to Bangor in 1991, where, at the age of 100, Mollie continues to live independently, with support from Nicki and other close family members.
She has four children of her own – Nicki’s mum Anne, Jimmy, Margie and Michelle as well as four stepchildren by her late husband Jack – Carolee, Ward, Catherine and Noreen.
There are enough grandchildren that Nicki has lost count of the exact figure, as well as nine great grandchildren.
Indeed, such is the size of Mollie’s family and friendship circle that 100 guests were invited to an afternoon tea at the Clandeboye Lodge on Saturday to join in her 100th birthday celebrations.
Mollie was happy being at the centre of things, for as Nicki comments, “she is a very outgoing person and has a great sense of humour. She loves socialising and going out for lunch with family and friends and still does it when she is well.”
Mollie has also proved to be ahead of her time in a number of ways, and Nicki observes, “She is very progressive in her thoughts for somebody so old.
“She is really into recycling and was more so than I was a few years back. She got us all into it and likes to do her bit.”