A Special Birthday for a Special Lady

Press Eye - Belfast Northern - Ireland - 16th April 2017 Isabella Young celebrates her 105th birthday at the Park Manor Care Home in Dunmurry. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Park Manor’s oldest resident celebrates 105th birthday, complete with visit from the Lord Lieutenant and an honour from the Queen.

Yesterday, Easter Sunday, Park Manor Nursing Home in Dunmurry celebrated a very important occasion – the 105th birthday of its oldest resident, Isabella Young. Not only was there cake and candles, but the Lord Lieutenant of Belfast was also in attendance to award the birthday girl a badge from the Queen.

Isa grew up on the Woodvale Road, later moving to Crumlin Gardens as a teenager. One of four, she lived with brother Robert and sisters Jean and Dora. It was in the company of her sisters that Isa would often have fun, especially when they would take trips up to Portballintrae. Isa remarks, ‘I remember Dora and I used to stay in the house above the shop. Portballintrae was my favourite place to go, it had beautiful scenery for walks.’ Not only that but Dora ended up meeting her husband on one of the girls’ many trips up north!

Isa met her future husband, Edward Young, at the Shankill Road Mission and she admits he didn’t take her eye to begin with. “I didn’t think Edward was handsome at first but he used to bring my mother a dozen eggs from Woodburn every week. My mother used to say to me I should ask that young man in and one day I did.” Edward and Isa married in St. James’ Church on the Antrim Road in 1932.  “I must have wanted a flashy wedding to pick St. James’s,” Isa smiles. ‘”Edward was a very good man and very good husband. A don’t have a happiest memory with him because every day with him was a happy one.” Edward sadly passed away in 1994. Isa says the secret to a long marriage is knowing each other really well, and ‘give and take.’

Isa laughs as she recalls a time, before they were married, when Edward and she travelled to Donaghadee on his motorbike. “Our friends decided to stay but we had to come home because Edward’s mother wouldn’t be happy if the bike wasn’t parked in the hallway at night-time. I wouldn’t have minded the late journey home, except the rain poured the whole way and I was like a drowned duck sitting on the back!”

Isa has held many jobs during her life, from working in the shoe business to the drapery business, but her favourite role was in the Royal Belfast Academical Institution. “I would serve the Master’s their morning coffees and lunches, among other tasks.” Isa remained a staff member at the prestigious school until her retirement.

Isa and Edward also enjoyed many holidays together, venturing as far as America and Canada in 1966. “I have uncles, aunts and cousins in Massachusetts. I loved that trip out to see them, but I’ll never forget the terrible heat!”  Although they did not have any children of their own, the couple enjoyed doting on their siblings’ children. “My brother Robert’s daughter Anne would often visit us on a Sunday after church at Woodvale Methodist, and the tradition was to have coffee with Penguin biscuits. That was Edward’s favourite treat.”

During the Belfast blitz, a bomb landed in the neighbours garden, causing havoc. “There was four people in our neighbours’ house that day and they were all killed. Everyone in the street had got under their kitchen tables and there was a crack the whole way down our house. A lot of people left Belfast at that time and we decided to as well since we no longer had a home. We moved to a lovely bungalow in Kilroot and the sea was just steps away from our back door.” The couple stayed there for less than a year and then moved back to Woodvale again, although kept the Kilroot house as a holiday home.

“My biggest disappointment is that we never had any children but it was great to be so close to my nieces and nephews, and their children.” A keen knitter, Isa was always very proud to see nieces and nephews wearing her creations. “I loved to spend time with the children in the family, and would often look after my niece Anne’s children. This sometimes had it’s challenges too though! I remember one time Anne’s daughter Julie locked the garage door and lost the keys – we couldn’t get the heating on all weekend!”

Witty and funny, Isa is certainly no ordinary 105 year old. When asked what the secret to a happy life was, she simply said, “There is no secret! Everyone just should live their life the way they want!”