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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 August 2006, 15:35 GMT 16:35 UK
A-grade granny gets top marks
Susan McGillan
Susan McGillan got an A-grade in her GCSE Irish examination
An 84-year-old great-grandmother from Northern Ireland was celebrating after achieving an A-grade in her GCSE Irish examination.

Susan McGillan, 84, from County Tyrone is one of the oldest entrants ever to take the test. She also sat an AS level in Irish and achieved a C grade.

The Strabane woman, who left school at 14, has proved it is never too late to learn and plans to take an A-level in the subject next year.

She had to cope with hearing loss and arthritis which limited her attendance in winter.

"I was just sitting in the house and I am not much into television so I read a bit and then I decided to do this course," she said.

"I was taking classes for two years before that and I only decided to take the exams six months before they were held."

Ms McGillan took the course through the North West Institute of Further and Higher Education.

It was hard work because I left school at 14 and I have never had any qualifications
Susan McGillan

Despite her age and doubts about her memory, Ms McGillan said she enjoyed the experience and would urge anybody contemplating returning to education to do so.

"It was hard work because I left school at 14 and I have never had any qualifications," she explained.

"One of the challenges was the fact that I am quite deaf and I also suffer from arthritis so I couldn't go to the evening classes when the weather was frosty."

As part of her studies Ms McGillan said she had completed a project on the conversion of Ireland to paganism almost 2,000 years ago as well as working on examples of Irish mythology.

Irish language body Foras na Gaelige helped support the venerable student and she said she was delighted with the backing she had received.

"I found it absolutely rewarding and at least when you do the exam you can value yourself."


Ms McGillan, originally from Buncrana in County Donegal, worked in the Fruit of the Loom clothing factory in the town before moving to Tyrone-based Adria hosiery manufacturers.

She brought up eight children and has 12 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

A spokesperson for the North West Institute said: "This is a fantastic result for Susan.

She has shown tremendous enthusiasm for her studies and has been a real pleasure to have in our institute.

"We are so happy she has achieved these grades and wish her continued success with her studies."

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