Sunday 21 January 2018

Dub Bessie (104) a star as 367,000 watch Older Than Ireland

Dubliner Bessie Nolan
Dubliner Bessie Nolan

The country's oldest TV star, Bessie Nolan (104), is enjoying a well-deserved holiday after she captured the nation's heart on RTE's Older Than Ireland.

The tea-drinking, chain-smoking Dubliner became an overnight sensation after 367,200 viewers tuned in on Wednesday to watch the award-winning documentary.

The show looked back at 100 years of life through the eyes of 30 Irish centenarians who were born while the country was still part of the United Kingdom.

Viewers fell for stylish and no-nonsense Bessie, from Drimnagh, describing her as "a legend" and "a hero" as she joked about how "everybody should die at 70".

"She's a phenomenon, still going strong at 104," said Snackbox Films' co-founder Colm Nicell, who worked as the chief researcher for the show.

"She defied people's expectations and that's why I think the audience warmed to her.

"She's a very independent lady, doing all her own shopping and cooking, and is away all the time.

"She's been all over the world and has probably seen more of it than any of us will in our lifetimes.

"She's actually in Kildare at the moment on a week's holiday."

To add to her fame, Bessie holds the record for being the oldest woman ever to fly on an Aer Lingus plane, which she did in 2014 while travelling to France.

"She's some woman all right - her son is 84 and still he's her baby boy," said Colm.

The film-maker told the Herald that the studio had been delighted with the reception for their documentary, which won best feature at last year's Galway Film Fleadh.

"Hopefully, it dispelled a few assumptions people have about the older generation," he said.

"The film for us was more a celebration of old age rather than saying it's all doom and gloom.


"It would have really been easy for us to make a documentary that was a terrible tale about getting old, but that wasn't the point we wanted to make.

"There are plenty of people out there who are of Bessie's age and full of spirit."

Snackbox Films is now working on a new project called Under the Clock, which aims to tell the stories of those whose relationships began under one of Ireland's most iconic landmarks, the Clerys clock on O'Connell Street.

"We were inspired by the closure of the department store last year," said Colm.

"That building has such a history that it seems strange for it to be gone now.

"Thousands of people must have met under that unassuming clock, whether as friends, lovers or strangers, so there must be plenty of fantastic stories to tell.

"We're really keen to feature a large cross-section of people from every county and community in Ireland who used it as a place to meet."

Anyone interested in being involved in the new project can contact Colm at theclock@snackboxfilms.com

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