Bench-pressing great great grandmother Rosie turns 100

Rosie celebrated her 100th birthday on Friday, Februrary 23 at her south Belfast home. Also pictured is her champion boxer husband Billy. Picture by Bill Smyth
Rosie celebrated her 100th birthday on Friday, Februrary 23 at her south Belfast home. Also pictured is her champion boxer husband Billy. Picture by Bill Smyth

Great great grandmother Rosie Smyth was packing a punch yesterday, having reached the age of 100.

The centenarian who grew up in the Ormeau Road area of Belfast puts her longevity down to her faith, family and fitness.

As she celebrated yesterday she received cards from both the Queen and Irish president Michael D Higgins, as well as a phonecall from her famous cousin – musician Phil Coulter.

One of four children, Rosie went on to have two children of her own – Theresa and Rhona – and then her family really started to grow.

Rosie became a grandmother 18 times over, then a great grandmother, and more recently a great great grandmother.

Her grandson Philip admitted it was very easy to “lose track” of family members: “I would hazard a guess there could be the guts of 40 to 50 great grandchildren and around 25 to 30 great great grandchildren.”

He added: “At the same time it’s hard for her outliving family who she held dearly.”

Rosie worked on the Falls Road for over 50 years in a home bakery she owned with her brother Billy Austin.

Her husband – also called Billy – was a three-time All Ireland professional lightweight champion boxer.

Philip, a boxer himself, said: “She was renowned as being one of the best people for bandaging people’s hands in boxing. She thought it wasn’t nice, people hitting each other, but she knew there was a discipline that came with boxing.”

Rosie spent her 95th birthday in her son Philip’s gym at his home in Newcastle: “It was amazing – she was benchpressing 20 kilos.”

He added: “She’s no stranger to the gym. She loves to work out. Even when she’s standing at the sink she’ll be doing squats and using tins of beans for bicep curls.

“Two years ago when she was in City Hospital, she had everyone out of bed doing all sorts of exercises.”

Rosie will be celebrating her birthday with her family at a party tonight in the Wellington Park hotel.

Philip added: “As a family we would always greet each other with a hug. The family is that big now that by the time you’ve hugged everyone to say ‘hello’ it’s time to hug them ‘goodbye’.”