Irish Lives: Mamó’s bucket list ahead of her 100th birthday

Year of discovery included McDonald’s, a 3D movie, and a visit from Pádraig Harrington

Máire Godfrey: “I can’t believe it’s me. It’s like it’s all happening to somebody else, but I’m getting a great kick from it all.”     Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Máire Godfrey: “I can’t believe it’s me. It’s like it’s all happening to somebody else, but I’m getting a great kick from it all.” Photograph: Nick Bradshaw


What would you do if you were hurtling towards your 100th birthday and still had many new experiences to try? Máire Godfrey, who lives in Donnybrook, Dublin, found herself in this position last year and decided to compile her bucket list. With the gentle nudging of her granddaughter Rebecca Murray she started a Facebook page, “Mamó’s Hundredth Year”, where they have been documenting her year of discoveries.

“She said to me on my 99th birthday, ‘now Mamó, in your 100th year you are going to do something that you’ve never done before or haven’t done for a long time.’ And that’s what we did.”

Next Saturday, she turns 100 and has just one thing left to do. “My niece is taking me out to Teddy’s [ice-cream shop] in Dún Laoghaire to have a 99. I’ve never been there before and I have to do it before I get to 100.”

It has been a whirlwind of a year. “I was never on the Luas before. I thought it was fantastic, the way it went in around the houses,” she says.

She went into the Dáil but didn’t manage to buttonhole the Taoiseach. “I saw your man with the pink shirt and the white hair [Mick Wallace]. I used to be critical of him but I was told he was a very good worker, always first in the morning and working all the time. But it’s a pity he, and the Independents, don’t dress nicely.”

Her husband Jim died just before his 99th birthday last year. The couple were keen golfers at Elm Park Golf Club and meeting Pádraig Harrington was top of her bucket list. So she got the surprise of her life when he arrived on her doorstep one day. “He really is my idol. He sat there for hours, chatting and chatting.”

For 99 years she avoided ever setting foot in a courtroom so a trip to the Four Courts beckoned. “I was brought into all the sanctums where even a solicitor couldn’t go,” she recalls. “It was brilliant. I sat in the dock and the judge’s seat. ” The Chief Justice Mrs Susan Denham heard about her visit and presented her with a framed photograph of the Four Courts.

She also accidentally turned up on a television programme during the year so that was added to the list. The Unemployables was being filmed in Donnybrook Fair when she was doing her shopping and she unwittingly became an extra in the show.

Facebook invite

Facebook heard news of her bucket list and she was invited to its Dublin headquarters in March. “I thought I was just going in to look at the place and have a cup of tea maybe but I found myself up on the stage being interviewed by a lovely lady, Sonia [Flynn, Facebook Ireland’s outgoing managing director].”

She had never seen a 3D movie so she went to Dundrum to watch Home in April and feared she was going to be hit by one of the characters. “It felt like it was coming in on top of me. It was terrific.”

McDonald’s was also added to the list after she asked why there was so much fuss about the fast food restaurant. “I had my chicken nuggets and chips. I thought it was lovely.”

To her chagrin, she won’t be the oldest person at her birthday party next Saturday as her first cousin Máirín Hughes turned 101 yesterday. Her younger sister Teresa, a mere whippersnapper at 89, will also be there. They are the only two surviving siblings in the family of 12 children.

They had a traumatic early life after the family was forced to flee Belfast in January 1922 because of sectarianism. Her father, a Catholic, ran a men’s outfitters in York Street which was looted and he was told that his name was on a blacklist in Crumlin Road jail. The couple had seven children at that stage and an eighth on the way.

The children were split up among relatives in Kerry and Cork and her baby brother was born four days after her mother arrived in Cork. The family was reunited nine months later when they settled in Rathmore, Co Kerry.

Ms Godfrey puts her longevity down to her genetics, noting that her mother and grandfather lived until they were 95. And she keeps her brain active by doing the Irish Times Simplex crossword every day with occasional help from Google.

Did she ever expect to be preparing for her 100th birthday? “I can’t believe it’s me. It’s like it’s all happening to somebody else,” she says, “but I’m getting a great kick from it all.”