Seatbelt and headphones on, Nonie McTiernan was a picture of contentment as she waited for the rotor-blades to increase their speed and for the Robinson R44 Raven II helicopter to take off.
But this was no ordinary chopper trip; because Nonie was celebrating her 100th birthday and this was her first flight.
“It was wonderful”, she said. “We must have been up for 15 or 20 minutes. It was lovely to see all the houses and fields down below. I really enjoyed it.”
Nonie’s brother, 86 year old Francie Larkin of Lisdeligna, Killimor, organised a big birthday celebration for his sister.
“She’s the best sister anyone ever had”, he said. “Nonie was the third eldest of our family of twelve and she was always there for the rest of us. There’s only the two of us left now”.
And what a party they had. Two marquees were erected on Francie’s farm for 175 invited guests. The day began with mass celebrated by Killimor parish priest, Fr. Ciaran Kitching who gave a warm talk about Nonie and the Larkin family.
He was assisted by Fr. Christy O’Beirne – as well as a small choir who sang beautifully, accompanied by organist Noreen Shiel and John Keane on guitar.
Following the mass, Nonie’s grand-niece Angela Larkin from New York, read a letter from President Michael D. Higgins in which he congratulated Nonie on reaching her 100th birthday and enclosing a cheque for €2,575.
A full dinner was then served to all the guests and this was followed by dancing to the music of K2 led by John Keane. During the evening there were numerous musical guests who contributed to the festivities.
Following her maiden flight, Nonie spoke for a while about her life. Born in 1918, she grew up on the family farm and went to school in Coola, three miles away. In her early 20s, she moved to Dublin where she worked for a few years.
In 1951, Nonie took the long voyage from Queenstown (Cobh) to the USA as she had some relatives there.
“I promised my mother that I would come home in five years and I did that” she said. “On holidays in Dromahair, County Leitrim in 1956, I met John McTiernan and two years later, on 12th February 1958, we married in St. Iomar’s Church, Killimor. We settled in Roughan, Riverstown, County Sligo and raised two children, a son, Pat and a daughter Ann-Marie. I have three grand-children and two great-grandchildren”, she added.
Her husband John died suddenly at the young age of 54.
When asked the inevitable question, to what did she attribute such a long and healthy life, Nonie replied: “I never drank or smoked and I worked hard all my life”.
She finished by entertaining the crowd with two wonderful recitations, ‘The Noble Boy’ and ‘My Dog Trey’ to huge applause.
To round off the celebrations, Nonie took to the floor with her son-in-law, John Francis Fowley and was soon joined by all the guests.
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