Alice (100) Continues to Enjoy the Looking Glass of Life


Donegal Democrat
Published Date: 11 February 2010
By Staff reporter

This is a mirror of an original article, which appeared in the Donegal Democrat 11 Feb 2010

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Dungloe native Alice McPaul celebrated her 100th birthday together with her family from Ireland, UK and the USA on Saturday 23rd January at the luxurious Matfen Hall Hotel and Spa in Newcastle Upon Tyne. Alice (nee Houston) originally from Tubberkeen, Dungloe and now Newcastle, enjoyed the weekend festivities among her fun loving children, grandchildren, great grand children, nieces and nephews. Ever the socialite herself, Alice enjoyed the weekend and was delighted to see her family.

Her great grandson Ryan Connors, aged 11years, wrote a biography of his Granny as part of a school project at St Crona’s National School Dungloe and the family have given the Democrat permission to re-print his wonderful story, which sums up the life, so far, of an amazing lady:

For my biography I have chosen the life of my great grandmother who is known to all the family as Grandma. I have written it with little stories Grandma told me when she visits Ireland, and a tiny bit of help from my Granny Anne.

My Grandma was born Alice Houston in Tubberkeen on the 22 January 1910. She was the third of six children. She attended Roshine School - which is approximately 1 mile from her home – until she was 12.

She tells many stories – some sad, some funny – of survival in the Rosses in those times. She tells one about being outside the school getting turf for the classroom fire when a big black monster came along the road. She was petrified and ran to hide. It was the first time she had ever seen a motor car.

Another one she tells about walking to school with her younger brother Con when she was about 8 years old. She had shoes on but he didn't, and he was crying with the cold. She took her shoes off and gave them to him.

Grandma's father had been married before and his wife died in childbirth with their first child. This child was called Denis. He was her half brother. Dennis joined the ranks of the Irish Army and married Mary. When Grandma left school she went to mind their children, first in Sligo and then in Roscommon.
She then returned to Tubberkeen to help her mother look after the family. Life was very difficult for a widow and 6 children in rural Ireland in 1920's. They struggled and worked every inch of their small farm and cared for their few animals.

When Grandma was 14 she went to the North of Scotland to the `Tatie Hokin" with her older sister Annie and younger brother Con. They worked extremely hard from dawn 'til dusk. When the cows were put out to graze at night after milking, my grandma and the other workers went into the cow byre to sleep. The byre was rat infested but they were so weary that they managed to sleep anyway.

The Derry boat

When the season ended they returned to Glasgow to catch the Derry Boat home. It was a very wet and windy night and the boat was unable to sail. They had nowhere to stay and eventually a kind policeman allowed them to stay in the police station for the night. The next day while waiting for the boat to sail they spent a few pennies on themselves. Annie bought a lipstick and painted her mouth like a clown. Grandma bought a string of beads and Con got a lollipop. After a very rough crossing on the Boat they got the train to Fintown and walked to Tubberkeen from there. On arriving home frozen and tired their mother’s greeting when they handed her their earnings was "Is that all you have".

As the family grew up conditions improved and life became a little easier. Annie went to America. Barney worked the farm. Con went to England and sent his money home. Grandma went to work in the factory in Dungloe while John went to work in Boyle’s shop. Margaret stayed at home with their mother. Grandma worked in the Cope knitting factory from the age of 17. Here she learned the skill of machine knitting and remained there until she married. She continued to machine knit at home for the factory until she left Ireland in 1953.

She married my Great Grandad Paddy McPaul in the early 30's.

Move to Newcastle

They lived on the main street in Dungloe and had 5 children. As the children grew the family began to emigrate to England. Great Grandad was the first to go, he was followed by Jim, and later by Hugh. Eventually in August 1953 Grandma and the remaining 3 children Gemma, Anne and Patrick left for Newcastle. She often talks of that day and the sadness she felt as the Derry boat sailed wondering if she had done the right thing leaving her home in Ireland. Eventually they bought a home in Newcastle and settled well. Great Grandad, Jim and Hugh worked on the open cast coal. The 3 younger children finished their education in Newcastle where they too found employment.

After marrying, Jim and his wife Mary emigrated to the U.S.A.. Jim died there in 2001.

Hugh and Bridie also emigrated to the U.S.A. on their wedding day. Hugh died there in 2008.


Gemma and her husband Andy settled beside grandma in Newcastle.

Anne (my granny), married my Grandad John and returned to Ireland.

Patrick remained at home with Grandma.

Grandma went back to work in England in 1960 as an examiner in a clothing factory. She continued to work there until her husband had a stroke in 1969. In 1979 they both moved back to Dungloe and lived on the Quay Road.

Grandad died in 1981 and Grandma later returned back to Newcastle to live with Patrick. She continued to lead a very active life until recent years. She caught a bus into the city almost every day, to play Bingo, until she was 96.

My grandma was 100 years old on the 22nd January 2010.

She received greetings from the President of Ireland and the Queen of England. We had a family gathering in Newcastle to celebrate this great event and it was great to meet so many family members I have never met before.

I love my Grandma and know I am lucky to still have her. I only hope that I have inherited her genes!!!


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Lindel Buckley

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