Blessed by life
CELEBRATING her 100th birthday over a glass of sparkling wine at her home in Grafton yesterday, Irene Crispin says she's never looked back after leaving behind the 'rat race' of Sydney 97 years ago.
Born in Leichhardt, Irene moved to the Clarence Valley to live with her Nan when she was three.
"I lived on Parramatta Rd in Petersham. There were no cars in those days, just sulkies, carts and buggies... there was nowhere to play," Irene said.
"I came to Grafton by boat... I couldn't believe the wide open spaces and I didn't want to go home. I thought I was in heaven.
"I couldn't think of a better place to live."
Although Irene said there was no bridge, no running water and no electricity back then, people managed.
But all the same she remembered what a difference it made to people's lives when electricity was finally turned on.
"People gathered all over Prince St that night shouting 'hooray!'," she said.
Irene also recalled the excitement of Friday nights in Grafton shopping, watching the sulkies go up and down Prince St and people gossiping.
"I loved to listen to the Salvation Army Band when they played on Blunts Corner, opposite the clocktower... I still love music of any kind," she said.
"I learned to play the piano by ear and played for the dances held at Carrs Creek for their Christmas party for 25 years.
"But I can't play like I used to."
Surrounded by family and with a letter of congratulations from the Queen, as well as one from former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, and cards from various other politicians, Irene said she had never been happier.
"All I can say is my life has been blessed and my blessing has been my family. I've been looked after well," she said.
Her children, Neville Crispin and Maxine Gleeson said Irene was a wonderful mother, one of the best cooks they knew and a handy card player.