THE key to living for a hundred years is to care for others according to centenarian, Nance Walsh. Nance has devoted her entire life to looking after others, be it working as a governess, a nurse or tending to her neighbours in the old days.
Nance was born in Great Oak outside of Callan in November 24, 1912. Nance received a convent education but despite her class mates all taking vows she said that the nuns were never going to be for her.
Instead aged 18 she moved to Belgium. Nance worked as a governess to five boys. Their father, a count, had wanted an English speaking governess to teach his sons. Nance describes her time in Belgium as a bit ‘Upstairs Downstairs’ the UTV drama that deals with the lives of the residents in a aristocrat’s ‘big house’. She spent her summers in at a summer home in Flanders and thought the boys throughout the year. “It was an easy life buth there was no future in it,” she said.
Not seeing any future in educating aristocrats, Nance went to London to train as a nurse in 1929. By 1935 she had become a State Registered Nurse. She moved to Bristol, but it didn’t agree with her. She said she was ill the whole time that she worked in Bristol. Nance returned to London to work in Brompton hospital. Brompton was a busy chest hospital and despite working harder than she had ever worked before she has fond memories of working their.
Nance’s mother became ill back in Callan in 1941. Nance returned to Kilkenny to help nurse her mother through her illness. When her mother had returned to good health, the war had begun and nurses were badly needed in England. During the war Nance worked in a hospital in Leicester.
When Nance’s mother became ill again, she came back to Callan While she was home she met a farmer from Cuffesgrange, Danny Walsh and they were married on the 10th October 1950. “We went through hard times and I wasn’t in good health, but I continued to some relief nursing,” said Nance.
In those days everybody helped each other out. There was no hospital so Nance helped nurse sick neighbours and in return they helped you in any way that you could said Nance. The biggest change Nance has seen in her life has been the death of the community spirit. “An awful change in people, now everybody is looking out for themselves, we were neighbour for neighbour,” she said.
After twenty five years of marriage, Nance’s husband died. She said he died too soon. Despite the blow she continued to live a full life in Callan and she started to travel. Nance visited Italy, the Holy Land and America. She lso became an avid reader and well known in the Callan library. Her favourite author is Sebastian Barry. She loved the Secret Scripture, “I like the way he touches on everything,” she said. Despite having reached the century Nance still has very strong opinions and loves a good debate. She prefers Pat Kenny to Ryan Tubridy and was delighted to receive a letter from Michael D Higgins congratulating her on her birthday.
Another one of Nance’s loves is hurling, but being from the Kilkenny Tipperary border she has a soft spot for the Tipperary team. She says they let her down this year by not putting up a better fight, but she refuses to make any predictions on the future. She is a little worried that the Kilkenny team are depleted with Shefflin’s injury and Cha Fitzpatrick’s retirement.
Nance Walsh had six brothers and sisters, which has resulted in nieces and nephews all around the world. Her grand nephew, Vincent Fearno came from New York paid her a surprise visit her on her birthday.