A BANGOR woman is expecting her fourth telegraph from her second monarch as she reaches the ripe old age of 107 tomorrow.
Joan Urquhart already has three telegrams from the late Queen Elizabeth – marking her 100th, 105th and 106th birthdays – and is looking forward to receiving another from King Charles.
The former home economics lecturer is understood to be one of Northern Ireland’s oldest centenarians.
And the secret of her longevity? Keeping her mind active, she confirmed.
Her daughter Alison says it’s the daily crossword puzzle that helps keep her grey cells and body in good shape.
“She still does the Guardian crossword every day,” Alison said. “She gets it delivered and just lives for it.”
“Physically, she is in good health and has no major health problems and she’s mobile on a rollator but her short-term memory isn’t great but that’s to be expected, I suppose.”
Joan’s life – even into her 80s – reflects that innate compunction to stay active and astute.
“She did an A-level in German in her 80s at Bangor Tech,” she said. “She was also a keen writer, belonging to a creative writing group in Bangor and she used to have a workshop in the garden, with saws and the like, and used to make tables and this and that, always useful things.”
Joan travelled extensively in her younger years, as far as Australia, and upon retiring she moved to Bangor and ran a B&B until she was in her 80s.
Born in Dublin in 1916, her family moved to Belfast in 1922, where her parents were originally from. Joan attended Victoria College and later teacher training college in England, before returning to Northern Ireland to teach at Garnerville, when it was a domestic science college.
Later, she lectured in what was by then known as home economics, at Jordanstown when it was still a polytechnic, which was during the height of the Troubles, Alison recounted.
Joan married Alison’s late father, William Hamilton Urquhart, a Scotsman who survived the German U-boat sinking of the Lusitania, in 1915, when over 1,000 people died.
“He was in the army and was on the doomed ship but was on the deck and was able to swim so was picked up. He was sent to Northern Ireland for some R and R and that’s when my mum and dad met, in Belfast, at Balmoral golf club.”
Together they had four children, Margaret, who has since sadly died, Judith, Donald and the youngest, Alison. With her father continuing in the army, they lived for a time in Germany and Cyprus.
Last year Joan was treated to afternoon tea at Hillsborough Castle to celebrate her landmark 106th birthday along with a trio of other elderly women, when she got to try on a tiara belonging to the late Queen Elizabeth.
Alison said her mother received €2,500 euros from the Irish Government – a standard gift for those who reach 100 and born on the island of Ireland.
“That paid for the party at Clandeboye Lodge,” she quipped.
“Every year since, she has received a commemorative coin and nice letter from Mr Higgins,” she said, referring to Irish president, Michael D Higgins.
Today, Joan spends her golden years at Abbeyfield independent supported living, overlooking Ballyholme Bay, enjoying time with fellow residents.