90th Birthday milestone for much-loved Martha!

There was a big celebration for the Leahy family and Newgate Stores in Navan last week, when family matriarch, Martha celebrated her 90th birthday.

Martha and her late husband, Jack, bought the very popular local business over 40 years ago and Martha is still a much-loved figure in the local community, despite retiring eight years ago. Sadly, Jack died in 2013.

Her family and friends celebrated her birthday at the Headfort Arms Hotel in Kells last Wednesday. Along with her children, grandchildren and great grandchild was her 92-year-old sister, Rosie, who travelled from Longford for the celebration.

Her sons, John and Joseph are both living in Meath and they were joined at the celebration by her daughter, Maria who came from Wiltshire and son, James, who travelled from Scotland.

The guests also included nephew and nieces, neighbours and friends, including Ann and Sean Keogan and Noel and Ann Fitzsimons who have been great friends and neighbours to her.

Martha is in great health, she has smoked all her life, since she was 12, and is still smoking. She is a big tea drinker, loves bingo and playing cards and loves her flowers and gardening.

“When she first came back to Ireland the packet of cigarettes was 50p, now there are nearly €17. Dad gave them up but she never stopped,” says her son, Joseph who now runs Newgate Stores.

Martha and Jack were originally from Granard in Co Longford.

As a teenager, between the ages of 16 and 19, Martha spent three years in hospital and had her kneecap amputated after an accident when she was struck by a piece of wood being used as a ball in a game of hurling by children on the street.

She grew up in Granard, her family had a few cows, had their own milk and made their own butter. They used to collect rainwater to do the washing and water for drinking came from a pump in the town.

Martha left home for England in February 1957 and Jack followed her over. They married in England and spent 25 years there.

The couple had four children Maria, John, James and Joseph. Martha worked in shops, a factory and later in a nursery looking after plants and flowers, while Jack worked for Ford, like many other Irish emigrants at the time and later worked in maintenance for London Transport.

Generations... Martha with son Joe and his wife Sheila and grandaughter, Erin celebrating Martha's 90th birthday.

Martha always wanted to come home and after 25 years they returned to Ireland.

“They had bought a site in Dunshaughlin and were actually on their way home in 1979, when they saw the shop at Newgate for sale and decided to buy it,” Joseph recalls.

“Mum and Dad came over to Ireland on their own. When I finished college, I came to help them for the summer, but never went back”

“From when they went to England, Mum always wanted to come home. She always had a yearning to come back to Ireland. When they came back she was 48, so she has spent half her life in Ireland.

“When they were coming home, I felt they were coming home to retire but that wasn't the case.”

“I took over when she finally retired, but it was a battle to get her to retire,” he said.

Martha did finally hang up the shop apron eight years ago, but she still lives beside the shop on the Navan-Kells Road, where she has lived since she returned to Ireland.

Martha is still very much at the centre of the family and her local community and is now a proud grandmother of eight and also has a much loved great-granddaughter!