When you get to the ripe old age of 97 you are more than entitled to speak your mind and Betty [Elizabeth] Moody from Moyvane certainly does that. Her feisty spirit and determination was evident when The Kerryman visited her this week and it was without doubt these traits that helped her battle COVID-19 earlier this year.
s one of Kerry’s oldest surviving Covid survivors, Betty has a lot to celebrate this Christmas and she will do so with her close friend Frances Leahy this week.
Despite her stay in hospital battling the deadly virus that has turned the country upside down and stopped Betty going to Bingo, she has taken the episode in her stride. She was determined to return home to Moyvane and as she left her house for the hospital those were in fact Betty’s exact words: “I will be back.”
“I didn’t know I had COVID-19, it was the District Nurse that spotted it…All I know was the nurse came and stood at the door and went back out and called for an ambulance and took me off,” explained Betty.
“When I got to the hospital the first thing I said I won’t die will I?…. I thought I am getting out of here as quick as I can.”
That was in March when Covid was still in it’s early days and Betty didn’t have any of the symptoms associated with the virus. She did have an upset stomach and tummy ache and was really tired but she had no temperature or cough.
Frances, who visited her every day, believed it was a kidney infection.
“It was some shock,” says Frances who was told to come and say good-bye to Betty.
“The nurse rang me and told me to come down, that Betty has COVID-19 and is very sick. I came to the door and she said to me, ‘I will be back’.”
Nobody has any idea where Betty picked up COVID-19 as none of the five people who visited her regularly were positive when tested and she had never been out of the house.
“I was in hospital for two weeks and then they sent to me the nursing home [Kenmare Community Hospital],” says Betty.
She feared that she was being put in a nursing home forever and was reluctant to go to Kenmare or anywhere.
All she wanted to do was return home to Moyvane where she has lived for the past 23 years since she and her husband, James or Jim as she fondly calls him, retired to Kerry.
“I just wanted to be home. There is no place like home. My home is my home with photos of my husband around me. I was cross when they wanted to send me to a nursing home… When I came through those doors I was happy.”
So too was the community of Moyvane where Betty is known as the ‘Queen of Moyvane’ and they lined the streets to welcome her home.
Betty was born in Gateshead, in Newcastle Upon Tyne on June 17, 1923 and spent some of her childhood living in Yorkshire and in Waterloo, London. With so much history behind her Betty has plenty of tales to tell including her many jobs down through the years including an interesting role at Huddersfield Police Station ‘looking after coppers’. A clock from her retirement at the age of 60 from this job takes pride of place in her sitting room 37 years later.
She also worked in a cloth mill and in Woolworths.
“I wasn’t there long. It was a time when I wanted to keep changing jobs.”
However, probably one of her most important roles was her role as an ARP [Air Raid] warden during World War II
“I would go out and ask people to put the lights out.”
When asked if she was afraid Betty replies “I was never afraid, I am not afraid of much.”
However the memories of World War II are something best forgotten as it was a difficult time.
She recalls an evacuee from London coming to live with her and her family during the war. She also remembers the horror of seeing a plane come down.
“I was working in the ICI at the time and it flew over the house, maybe off someone he knew and he tipped his wings and hit the house and both blew up,” recalled Betty.
Then she met her husband-to-be Jim walking down the street and the rest is history. He is originally from from Newcastlewest but they lived in the UK for much of their married lives. The couple were married for 53 years until Jim passed away three years ago. He was 12 years her junior, something Betty says she never let him forget!
On happier memories of Christmas past she recalls the presents she got as a young girl – a 4p doll from Woolworths and her mother made clothes for it.
Now Betty says Christmas has changed too much – too commercialised and too many presents.
“Christmas before was lovely. There are real presents under the trees and if your were bold there was cinders in your socking. Christmas has now changed. It is money-grabbing. People get into debt to get stuff.”
Christmas too has sad memories for Betty as her Dad died during the festive season but this year as she sits beside her Christmas tree she hopes for a better year without the virus.
Having faced it head-on she is urging people to take care and follow the rules.
“People ought to take notice of the TV and not connect with crowds and they don’t take notice. I really feel sorry for people who get it, it is a long time to be away from home.”
Her advice on Covid is also her advice on life: “take life as it comes and take care of yourself”.
That, according to Betty, is the secret to life and she should know at the age of 97.
Though many have cited no drink and healthy living as the key to a long life, Betty holds no truck with that and with her humorous look on life she says.
“I did all that…and went out with boys.”
And this, combined with her wit, determination and joie de vivre have helped Betty live a long and happy life.
She says age is just a number and she laughingly says she is in fact just 79 turning her age on its head.
When asked if she had a good life Betty replies: “I have had a good life and enjoyed it and I’m not gone yet.”