Irene counts God's blessings
AS ANOTHER birthday has come and gone, it is clear Irene Crispin's never say die attitude serves her well.
"It's no good giving in, you've got to keep going," she said.
"If you fall down you get up again, you don't lie down."
The centenarian celebrated her 104th birthday yesterday, making her the second-oldest resident in the Clarence Valley.
To put the length of Mrs Crispin's life into perspective, consider that the First World War was still raging when she arrived in Grafton as a young girl.
"My parents lived in Petersham when I was born; talk about a mad house," she laughed.
"We had two trams out the front and traffic seven days a week, and there was nowhere for us kids to play.
"Then my aunty came to Sydney from Grafton... and she brought me up for a holiday. There was a little blue cattle dog to meet me when I got to the farm and I wouldn't go home. I stayed there ever since."
Over the years Mrs Crispin has seen hundreds, if not thousands of changes to the landscape, and while she still laments the loss of several industries in Grafton, she said it was good to see more people moving to town for the jail and bridge projects.
"They've been a long time coming," she said.
"That's what I love to see, plenty of work for the people in Grafton.
"There was no bridge when I came, only a punt for traffic and a ferry for pedestrians. You'd catch the ferry across, and the first taxi in Grafton was run by a chap by the name of Matt Everingham. He had this great big wooden buggy with two horses pulling it and he used to wait at the top of the hill when the punt pulled into Grafton and if you needed a ride he was it."
As she grew older and left school, Mrs Crispin managed her family's dairy farm until she got married at the age of 24. That's when she was first introduced to her enduring love of greyhound racing.
"My uncle was a greyhound man and he gave me a little pure white pup for a wedding present," she said. "Her house name was Judy but we called her Merry Sound, and I took that little dog and I loved her like a child."
Mrs Crispin also went on have two human children as well, "the most beautiful children you could ever wish for", both of whom - now in their seventies - had lunch with her to celebrate her huge milestone yesterday.
"My daughter played my favourite song, La Vie En Rose, sung by a little French lady called Edith Piaf.
"It's a beautiful song."
Her phone was also ringing off the hook with well-wishes.
As a final note, Mrs Crispin put her longevity down to training greyhounds and a positive outlook.
"My grandmother said to me when I was a little girl, 'you're put in this world to help your fellow man If you can't do him a good turn, never do him a bad one', and I've tried to adhere to that all my life. God's been good to me and I've had a good life, a happy life, and I've met such lovely people I can call my friends.
"What more can you ask?
"That's what you call happiness."