BY BILL ANDERSON
AN OCTOGENARIAN nun who almost starved during the war spoke of the surprise of her life last week when she received a birthday card — posted in 1929.
Sr Cecilia Fitzgibbon, who lives with the Little Sisters of the Poor in Lambeth, south London, was handed the card when she visited her home town in Ireland in June.
The card, sent for her 19th birthday by a friend in Dublin, was addressed to her family's home above the Co-op store in Cross Haven, County Cork, was discovered 68 years later under the floorboards of the local post office as it was being demolished. The note on the card said: "Will write soon. Have bags of news. Fond love, Eileen."
Sr Cecilia, now 87, said: "It was like a message from my youth, bringing so many happy memories of the past and the dear friend who sent it."
The friend, Eileen Lovely, also a novice nun at the time and preparing for training at Bushey Heath, Hertfordshire, died three years ago, but had stayed in touch with Sr Cecilia.
"Even though we were together in training for five years she never mentioned the card," she said. "She must have taken it for granted that I received it. We were great friends but after we took our vows she went to South Africa and I went to Rome. When the Italians declared war on Britain in 1940 the Irish nuns stayed behind to prevent the convent being commandeered.
"Those war years were hard on everyone. We almost starved. I lost so much weight and was so weak I could hardly walk. German soldiers took pity on us and gave us sausages. Later when the Allies entered Rome, British soldiers gave us our first real meal for months."
Sr Cecilia — named after the patron saint of music — went on to teach music in Launceston, Cornwall, and founded a junior orchestra.