But the St. Frances Nursing Home in Galway City reported that resident Bridget Dirrane celebrated her 108th birthday on Friday, Nov. 15. A nurse at the rest home said that she would not like to speculate that Dirrane was Ireland’s oldest woman, but she was “certainly in the top two or three.”
Dirrane, born on Inis Meain in 1894, lived for 39 years in the U.S. and worked for President Kennedy at one point. She later wrote a brief account of her life called “A Woman of Aran.”
In her book she told of joining the IRA’s women’s wing, Cumann na mBan, and then, while training as a nurse in Dublin, was arrested by the Black and Tans. She spent time on hunger strike in Mountjoy Jail. She said that she knew many of the 1916 Rising leaders, including Countess Markievicz.
When she turned 103, Dirrane had another achievement: she became the oldest woman in the world believed to have been awarded an honorary university degree.
For her 105th birthday in 1999, Dirrane was asked what her legacy would be.
“It won’t be riches,” she replied. “What I will leave is the sunshine to the flowers, honey to the bees, the moon above in the heavens for all those in love and my beloved Aran Islands to the seas.”
Rita Duffy, who passed away last week at 105, was from County Waterford.
Whether Dirrane is indeed Ireland’s oldest woman has not been confirmed, but the day after declaring the late Rita Duffy “Ireland’s oldest woman” at 105, the Irish Independent reported that “Ireland’s oldest woman, Bridget Dirrane” had celebrated her 108th birthday.