“DO EVERYTHING right and keep out of trouble.”
These are the sage words of advice for a long and healthy life from the region’s most recent centenarian.
Mary Porter will turn 100 today and family and friends of the Werris Creek local will gather this morning at St Thomas’s Catholic Church to mark the momentous occasion with a thanks for life service.
The second eldest of eight children, the then Mary Allen spent most of her formative years at Caroona, the daughter of Henry (Harry) Allen, a top shearer.
In her younger years, the family moved around a bit, as her father went from job to job, shed to shed and bunking down at night in their horse and buggy.
When his two eldest girls came of age, their father bought a house in Moree – the first Aboriginal man to do so – so his daughters could attend school.
They spent four years there before the growing family moved to Caroona.
Like so many children of that era, Mrs Porter left school early – at the age of 13 – and began working to help support the family.
For the next six years, she toiled seven days week at Walhallow Station, making the daily, three-mile round trip there on foot.
“Kids these days have it a lot easier,” Mrs Porter said.
“We had to share a room; everything had to be shared. Everyone had work to do and you did it.”
She first met her husband-to-be, George, at school. He was a bit over a week older than Mrs Porter and in the same year.
Both went their separate ways after school, but not before the very young suitor proclaimed to his intended out of the blue: “I’m going to marry you one day”.
Living in the same town, it seemed only inevitable their paths would cross again – and they did.
When they were about 20, Mr Porter, now himself a shearer, bumped into his childhood sweetheart at a local dance and sparks flew.
They were married seven years later and not long after welcomed the first of six sons.
In 1957 the family moved to Werris Creek, where Mrs Porter has been ever since.
She didn’t have any trouble keeping her six boys in line, eldest son Vic, said.
“Mum had no trouble containing us. She had strict rules ... she wasn’t over-strict, but kept a tight line. She still only has to look at us and put the finger up; she doesn’t have to talk,” he laughed.
Mrs Porter’s long life hasn’t been without loss and heartache, though.
She’s been without her husband for more than 30 years since he passed away in 1982 and her second-eldest son sadly died in 1996, but the strict Catholic’s health is stable and she lives independently in a unit at Summer Hill Lodge.
After the church service Mrs Porter plans to enjoy a low-key celebration of tea and scones with residents there today before celebrating in style with the rest of the family on Saturday night at the local golf club.