FAMILY AFFAIR: (from back left) Monica Kearns, Pat Gallagher, Tony Gallagher, Mary Gallagher and Jimmy Gallagher celebrate their mum Nell Gallagher's 100th birthday.
FAMILY AFFAIR: (from back left) Monica Kearns, Pat Gallagher, Tony Gallagher, Mary Gallagher and Jimmy Gallagher celebrate their mum Nell Gallagher's 100th birthday. Kathryn Lewis

How to live and love for a hundred years

FOR a century, Ellen 'Nell' Gallagher (nee Ryan) has cared for everybody around her.

On Monday, it was her turn to be showered with celebration as family and friends at St Catherine's Aged Care gathered to help her ring in 100 years.

Ms Gallagher was born in Wardell, one of nine children. Her father, Joseph was a canecutter and often working away from home.

Ms Gallagher's caring nature shone from her early years, when she was excused from school to help her mother look after her siblings.

In her teen years Ms Gallagher was a fine athlete and won the North Coast Girls under 16 100 yards sprint. She was presented with a beautiful trophy which she refused to hand back to be engraved.

Her later teen years were spent as a telephonist at the Wardell Post Office and that was where she met her future husband Frank Gallagher, who came to Wardell as a relieving postal officer.

When she got to an age where she was to be paid at adult rates, she was put off staff.

Her new career started at St Josephs Hospice near St Vincent's Hospital in Lismore and she stayed there until she and Frank were married in Wardell in 1942.

Then it was off to an oceanfront flat at Coolangatta while Frank was relieving at the Tweed Heads Post Office. From her kitchen window Nell could watch Frank surfing at Greenmount. Soon American soldiers started coming to the coast for rest and relaxation leave so up went the rent and they had to move back to Tweed Heads.

Their first child, Pat, was born in April 1943 and later that year they moved to Grafton.

Accommodation was difficult to find at that time, but they settled for the rent of a room with use of the kitchen in a home in Mary St. The lady of the house was home, but her husband was serving overseas at the time. Later there was an opportunity to rent a home in Pound St and later still to move to 6 Villiers St to a house owned by the Sisters of Mercy where the Conservatorium is now.

Four of their five children were born at Runnymede Maternity Hospital and then in 1955 Nell and Frank bought the house in Fitzroy St. Frank died in 2001 but Nell stayed in that home till she moved to St Catherine's in October 2017.

During her time at home Nell worked as a volunteer at the Vinnies store for more than 33 years.

She made hundreds of sponge cakes for street stall and school fetes and assisted the elderly with home care.

As well as her five children Nell now has thirteen grandchildren and twenty-one great-grandchildren all of whom have experienced her love and care.