Centenary celebration

Mount Gambier resident Mary Duggan has recently celebrated a century of life, a feat many hope to achieve but few are lucky to.

Mrs Duggan was born on May 30, 1922, in Casterton as the eldest of five children in a time quite different to today, which is possibly the secret to her longevity.

When asked if she had any secrets to living for so long Mrs Duggan said she has always loved the outdoors, growing up in a self-sufficient way of life.

“When I was growing up as a young girl I had to do everything my three brothers wanted to do even though I was the eldest, such as walking the fence with no shoes on,” she said.

“My father was a bee-keeper and while my father extracted honey from the frames I would sit on the bee boxes and I was not frightened of them at all.

“I milked the cows we had every day to get milk for the family, which was also made into dairy products.

“We were living out of town so there was no way to get there except horse and buggy, meaning often we would not go to the shops for a month at a time.

“We did not have a fridge, a washing machine or electricity and we had to heat water up in a kerosene can on a wood stove to have a bath.

“The woodfire oven would be going during the day and if need be, I would open the door to warm myself up the best I could.

“My father had his own fruit and nut trees and grew vegetables and we made our own preserves, bread and clothes.”

She also walked almost five kilometres a day to school and loved to go fishing with her father.

Mrs Duggan served in World War II and is the last surviving Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) member living in South Australia.

She took on numerous roles in her time in the force at the Mount Gambier base such as a drill and physical education instructors.

“Once I earned my three stripes I oversaw the group of women who were there,” she said.

“I was sent to Melbourne to re-skill as a photographer and developed my own films for education and training purposes.

“I flew around the country looking for places around the coastline where the enemy could possibly enter on land and secluded areas for our army to reside.”

She met her husband Mark Duggan, who was a travelling salesman selling photographs at the time, in Casterton before World War II.

The pair kept in touch through handwritten sent letters back and forth while she was away in the airforce and Mr Duggan was serving in the army.

They decided to get married in Melbourne in June 1945 following the end of the war and she gave birth to their first child in 1947.

True to her upbringing, Mrs Duggan went on to have a total of five children reminiscent of her childhood.

Mr Duggan was working as a manager at Patterson’s Furniture, which saw the family relocate eight times in 12 years.

He was transferred to Mount Gambier to open the Pattersons store on the main street and upon being relocated for a ninth time he started working for Braithwaite’s instead until his retirement.

Mrs Duggan worked in work rooms at Fletcher Jones and Bob Hazel making curtains and wall coverings.

“I had to work as money was not much in those days,” she said.

“It was difficult to work because I had to manage the family as well.”

When asked if she had any advice, Mrs Duggan said to just do the best you can with people, be nice to them, help them out and try not to get into arguments.

“Families have always been first for me. I have always regarded them as being the best thing you can have,” she said.

“I do not think I have ever looked at turning 100 in a planned sort of way, it was just something that happened.”

Mrs Duggan received over 50 cards from family, friends and politicians including notably the Queen, past and present prime ministers Scott Morrison and Anthony Albanese and Governor of SA the Honourable Frances Adamson.

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