Olive Riley, our quintessential Calla Lily woman was the world’s oldest blogger at 108.
On her site, The Life of Riley, Olive had posted more than 70 entries on her blog-or blob as she jokingly called it- since February, 2007. She mused on her day-to-day life recounting living through two world wars and raising 3 children on her own working as a cook and bar maid.
She had a superb memory and amazing zest for life.
This is how she introduced herself in her first blog post:
Good morning everyone. My name is Olive Riley. I live in Australia near Sydney. I was born in Broken Hill on October 20th, 1899. Broken Hill is a mining town. My friend Mike has arranged this blog for me. He is doing the typing and I am telling the stories. He thinks it’s a good idea to tell what’s going on. I’m starting with my Christmas trip. I flew up to Brisbane to stay with my great-grandson Darren, Ginette and their two kids. Darren works for Quantas and so he was able to arrange for me to be hoisted into the plane in a lift. They don’t have one of those walk-on ramps at Newcastle airport where we flew from.
Mike is fascinated that I went for a swim at Darren’s house. It was lovely. Mike asked me a hundred questions about it when I came back.
Mike: ‘How did they get you into the water, Ollie, since you don’t walk that well?’
Olive: ‘They helped me down into the water, one on each side and I just floated around flapping me arms and drinking me shandy.
Mike: ‘They gave you a beer in the water?’
Olive: ‘Too right! A shandy. I had one every day I was there too. There I was good as gold with my great-great grandkids paddlin’ around me all excited. Nana’s swimmin’! Nana’s swimmin’!’
In a post called WASHING DAY, Riley wrote:
You 21st century people live a different life than the one I lived as a youngster in the early 1900s. Take washing day, for instance. These days you just toss your dirty clothes into a washing machine, press a few switches and it’s done.
She then described how she helped do laundry as a youngster, starting with finding a few pieces of wood to fire the copper for Mum.
When the water in the copper began to boil, Mum would add a cupful of soap chips and throw in a cube of Reckitt’s Blue wrapped in a muslin bag to whiten the clothes. Then she put in all the dirty clothes, first rubbing out the stains with a bar of Sunlight soap that was jolly hard work.
Riley was born in 1899 and passed away in 2008. She took up blogging at the suggestion of Mike Rubbo who filmed a documentary on her life four years ago.
‘First of all, I had to explain to her what a blog was and that took some doing,’ Rubbo said. ‘Then I got across the idea that it was sort of a diary that she would share with the world.
‘The reason for its popularity is that she was such a standout talent-just so touching and funny and a great story teller.’
In her final post, Riley wrote how she felt weak and couldn’t shake off a bad cough. She wrote of singing ‘a happy song, as I do every day,’ with a visitor to the nursing home, ‘and before long we were joined by several nurses who sang along too. It was quite a concert!’
Thousands of loving messages she received from fellow bloggers in such places as Iceland, India, Iran, North and South America and Australia helped keep her alive in her final year.
Her only regret was that she couldn’t reply to them.