Cork dairy farmer Denis Dilworth celebrated his 101st birthday in style last weekend in Cramer’s Court nursing home.
Denis was born on 25 February 1920, just after the Spanish flu had killed more than 20,000 people in Ireland. He spent much of his life dairy farming in Vicarstown, Donoughmore, Co Cork.
The staff at the nursing home, where he has been resident for just about a year, wanted to make his day extra special.
Teresa O’Donovan, activities coordinator at Cramer’s Court nursing home, said: “The first thing we did was send out a call out to his parish of Donoughmore. I wanted video footage of people wishing him well.”
A special birthday
“Denis was involved with Dairygold and the local GAA, so I wanted somebody representing each of these organisations to wish him a happy birthday. People sent us in fantastic footage, especially Denis’s grandson, Donnacha, who shares the same birthday as his grandfather.
“Everyone is calving and it’s the time of the year, so he sent us in footage of the Friesian calves and it was amazing for Denis to see seasonally what was going on at home. It is so important.
“He is so alert. He was telling us about the Friesian cows and said ‘they can get too big, that is the only problem with the Fresians’. It was so remarkable to hear him with his point of view from a farming angle.”
Friesian calves and a New Holland tractor
Denis was greeted with some Friesian calves and a New Holland tractor on his birthday.
“Local councillor Alan Coleman brought down some newborn calves for Denis to examine. We had to create a situation where we could safely take Denis outside in his wheelchair. He was gas. He was fixing the jackets on the calves and he was correcting all the little mistakes.”
“We were so conscious that he would have seen such changes in farming over the years. Local farmer Colm Sheehan brought a New Holland tractor down for Denis to throw his eye on and left it there all day. He was looking at the cab and he was saying ‘there is great shelter in that anyway’.
“Denis told us he was never a major fan of the New Holland tractors. He thought they were good but they wouldn’t be his first choice. One of his daughters told us that he would have always been a Ford man,” Teresa explained.
Denis asks about the weather every morning
In the morning the staff went up to his bedroom to wish him a happy birthday and get him ready for the day. When Denis saw the good weather and freshly ploughed fields through the window, he exclaimed “sure it is such a grand day”.
Even though he is not physically farming, his mind is very much still on the farm
Teresa said: “The first thing he looks out at every day is the weather. He is still very much the farmer. The weather is the first thing he wants to know about in the morning. He would ask what direction is the wind going, that is his enquiry every morning. It’s amazing that the memory muscle is still there and these things are still so important to him, even though he is not physically farming, his mind is very much still on the farm.”
“At the end of the day, Denis said ‘well, do you know what, we took our chances where we took them and we done right by everyone’, and that was his way of saying he had a good life and he had a good shot at it. I think the day really meant a lot to him.”