by Aine Fitzgerald
Published on Sunday 20 January 2013 16:30
JAPAN’s Jiroemon Kimura may have became the world’s oldest man last week aged 115 years, but buried beneath County Limerick soil is a 219-year-old-John Murphy.
The tombstone of the mystery man - who is surely a candidate for the Guinness Book of Records - has been discovered in the cemetery at St John’s Church in Knockainey by a local historian.
Michael Quinlan was researching his new book on the church when he came upon the unusual inscription.
“When anybody sees it – they are quite amazed,” said Michael. “The fact is, it is written in stone! It is dating from 1784,” he explained of the gravestone.
The oldest grave in the cemetery dates back as far as 1736 but undoubtedly the most unusual headstone is that of John Murphy of whom very little is known. His gravestone simply reads ‘died aged 219 years’.
According to Michael, it is “impossible” to do any research on the individual “as there is no documentation or parish record going back as far as that.”
Due to age of the grave, and in turn the faint inscription, the surprising information has escaped the attention of many visitors to the graveyard - until now! “The news is spreading,” said Michael. “We have a 20-stop tour of the graveyard prepared and ready and all these things could come into a little story,” he pointed out.
All the gravestones in the graveyard are recorded and numbered and a display panel which is located inside the front gate directs visitors to the exact location of each burial.
Meanwhile, back in Japan and Kimura, a former postman who is 115 years and 258 days old, dodged childhood killers such as tuberculosis and pneumonia that kept life expectancy in Japan to 44 years around the time he was born, in 1897.
Kimura has defied the odds against his gender as well. Men make up only 15 percent of centenarians, according to Boston University researcher, Thomas Perls.