Norfolk woman receives 100th birthday wishes from Queen and Irish president

Joan O'Donnell on her 100th birthday with her card from the Queen and letter from the president of Ireland.

Joan O'Donnell on her 100th birthday with her card from the Queen and letter from the president of Ireland. - Credit: CHARLOTTE BOND

A Norfolk centenarian has secured an unusual double, receiving birthday wishes from both the Queen and the president of Ireland.

Joan O'Donnell lived and worked in Ireland for more than 50 years before moving to Watton around 10 years ago to be closer to two of her sisters and a brother.

She was contacted by the representatives for Irish president Michael D. Higgins ahead of her 100th birthday, and later received a personalised letter from him.

Her daughter Maureen Buckley, 80, from Huddersfield, said: "She still carries fond memories of Ireland in her heart and was delighted that one of her first 100 birthday cards was from the president of Ireland.

"She is also thrilled that the Queen has sent her a birthday card."

Joan O'Donnell celebrates her 100th birthday with her daughter Maureen Buckley aged 80 and son Glen

Joan O'Donnell celebrates her 100th birthday with her daughter Maureen Buckley aged 80 and son Glendy Collen. Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND - Credit: CHARLOTTE BOND

Mrs O'Donnell was born on February 15, 1922 to Ted and Laura Sutton. The family lived in Swaffham, Brandon and Watton and were well known in the local area.

Her father was a butcher and farmer and Mrs O'Donnell, who is the eldest of eight children, used to help around the farm and house alongside her siblings.

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She left school at the age of 14 and went to work in service for a family where her mother worked as a cook.

Aged 15, she moved to Halifax in Yorkshire to work for mill owner Mr Broadhead.

She married aged 20 and had five children - Maureen, Barrie, Linda, Glendy and Michael.

Mrs O'Donnell moved to London in the late 1940s where she worked for record company Mecca. In the capital she began what her family call "her publicans life" and ran the Crowndale pub, and is said to be one of the first female licencees in London.

She later moved to Cambridge and then Ireland, where she worked in a hotel pub and restaurant, before returning to Watton.

Her daughter Maureen Buckley, 80, from Huddersfield, described her mother as a "remarkable woman", who is still active and goes shopping on her own.

She said her mother had been waiting for her special day following a "long winter in Isolation".

Joan O'Donnell cutting her cake on her 100th birthday celebration lunch at The Willow House.

Joan O'Donnell cutting her cake on her 100th birthday celebration lunch at The Willow House. - Credit: CHARLOTTE BOND

"She is delighted with all her birthday cards and amazed that so many people have sent her cards and stopped her on her way home from shopping at Tesco's to wish her a happy birthday."

A celebration lunch was held on Tuesday, February 15 at the Willow House in Watton for the 100-year-old, who was surrounded by her family and friends.

Joan O'Donnell holding her birthday card made by daughter Maureen Buckley.

Joan O'Donnell holding her birthday card made by daughter Maureen Buckley. - Credit: CHARLOTTE BOND

Joan Smith, a family friend, added: "She is a happy lady, looking on the bright side of life.

"She usually sings a song or two when she visits me and sometimes over the phone when appropriate."