Sister sets out on her 110th year


Sister Dympna (left), who was 109 yesterday, with her 96-year-old sister, Sister Bede

Sister Dympna Carew, believed to be the oldest living Irish person, celebrated her 109th birthday yesterday.

The Dominican nun, from Dundrum, Co Tipperary, emigrated to South Africa more than 84 years ago and lives in retirement at St Michael's Convent, Rondebosch, Capetown.

The head of the convent said yesterday that Sister Dympna remained generally healthy and doctors were amazed at her complete recovery from a fall which caused her to be hospitalised last year. "She has no real ailments and the doctor never comes to see her."

Dublin-born Sister Giuseppe said: "She sits out in a chair every day and sleeps and eats well. She also hears fairly well, depending on your tone of voice, and is entertaining and knowledgeable. If she's in good form, she can give you an earful!"

Sister Dympna, who taught until she was 85, celebrated her birthday by greeting friends and past pupils. "We got a cake from the supermarket but decided against having 109 candles," said Sister Giuseppe. "We had 108 last year and found them hard to fit".

Occasionally Sister Dympna refers to her age. "From time to time she announces she `hasn't got long for this world' or that she's `going to die'. When we question her about when she expects to die, she replies `Oh, in a year or two, now.' If she lives to be 110, she'll have lived in three centuries and will really be a phenomenon"

The Capetown Dominican community of 19 includes her sister, Sister Bede (96). Two other sisters lived to be 100 while two brothers survived into their 90s.

In Dublin, the Department of Social Community and Family Affairs said the oldest person on its books is aged 106 years, and it has 176 people claiming benefit who are more than 100 years of age.