State's oldest citizen never knew how to 'worry'


Olivia Breen:OLIVIA BREEN, who has died in her 110th year, was Ireland’s oldest citizen. Her life spanned the sinking of the Titanicand the attack on the Twin Towers. She lived through the rise and fall of the Soviet Union and two world wars, as well as the Cold War.

Born in Wexford in 1901, she was one of six children of J Richard Dier and his wife Eliza (née Watchorn). Her father, a member of the Irish branch of an Anglo-Saxon family, farmed 200 acres at Coolbawn, Clonroche, and was a justice of the peace. Her mother was from Carlow.

Her brother Richard died in the Battle of the Somme, while another brother John practised medicine in Scotland, having qualified from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and Edinburgh University.

The family kept horses and rode to hounds. Her father, while in his 90th year, rode with the Bree Hunt on St Patrick’s Day, 1947. Olivia herself was a fine horsewoman, and rode regularly with the hunt.

She closely followed show-jumping, and Iris Kellett and Eddie Macken were among her favourite riders.

In 1932 she was married to Patrick Breen of Milltown, Co Kerry, and they had three sons and a daughter. The family lived for many years in Portlaw, Co Waterford, and then moved to Dublin, where her husband died in 1964. She later settled in Cork.

She embraced the many changes and developments in Irish society and was guided by a simple philosophy: “Never look back.”

Her interests included literature, and she never tired of Charles Dickens and the Brontë sisters; she also enjoyed listening to radio plays. Gardening was another of her pastimes and she was very close to nature throughout her life.

She attributed her longevity to strength of spirit and a carefree attitude. “She always said she never knew the meaning of the word ‘worry’,” according to her daughter-in-law, Rose Breen.

She moved into the Care Choice nursing home, in Montenotte, Cork, in 2001, but remained active and alert, keeping herself informed of advances in technology. She said she only used a walking stick to keep the nurses happy.

She received the centenarian’s bounty from President McAleese on her 100th birthday, and each year since.

Buried in Glasnevin Cemetery with her husband, she is survived by her sons Michael, Noel and Gerard and her daughter Florence, and also her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Olivia Breen: born October 3rd, 1901; died September 18th, 2011