Isabel Cecilia Lecky Watson

Born: August 30 1883

A spirited country-woman with an alert mind and firmly-held opinions. I was so intrigued with this lady that I could have listened to her far longer than time allowed. In 1981, at the age of ninety-eight, she started to write her own life story, which she titled ‘Looking Back: The life of an Irish Gentlewoman, 1883-1981’. She also told me proudly that in the 1870’s her grandfather, Henry Roe, funded the restoration of Dublin’s iconic 11th century Christ Church Cathedral, a national landmark still standing today, to which centuries of Irish history is linked.

Cecilia (as she liked to be called) was fluent in English, French and Italian and enjoyed playing the piano, she said — when she had ‘time to spare’. Up to two years before I met her to make her centenarian portrait, she had spent hours almost every day tending to her flower gardens, which she and her husband had restored decades earlier. More recently she had switched to riding around the gardens in her battery-powered chair, tending to the leaves and pathways and watching the farm work going on. Cecilia was certain, she said, that the secret to long life is to stay busy and take life as it comes. She requested that her pet dog and her wedding photo be included in her portrait; naturally, I was happy to oblige.