'I can't shake off that bad cough': world's oldest blogger logs off

Kathy Marks
Tuesday 15 July 2008 00:00
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Some older people have an aversion to the internet and its myriad forms of communication. Not Olive Riley, who began blogging last year at the age of 107 and posted more than 70 entries before dying in an Australian nursing home last weekend.

Born in 1899 in the outback mining town of Broken Hill, Mrs Riley took up blogging at the suggestion of a friend, jokingly calling it her "blob". A great-great-grandmother, she acquired an international following, with thousands of people responding to her tales of bringing up three children on her own and surviving two world wars and the Depression.

Mrs Riley, who had spells working as a barmaid in Sydney and a cook on a Queensland cattle station, kept her blog going until two weeks before she died. In her final entry on 26 June, she confided: "I still feel weak, and can't shake off that bad cough."

Her friend Mike Rubbo yesterday recalled putting the blog idea to Mrs Riley. "First of all, I had to explain to her what a blog was, and that took some doing," he said. "Then I got across the idea it was a sort of diary she would share with the world. The reason for its popularity is that she was such a stand-out talent – just so touching and funny, and such a great story-teller."

Mrs Riley, who liked a shandy and was a keen follower of the Sydney Swans, an Australian rules football team, also posted clips of herself talking and singing on YouTube. Her great-grandson, Darren Stone, said: "She enjoyed the fame – it kept her mind fresh. She had people communicating with her from as far away as Russia and America. What kept her going was the memories she had."

Scores of people from around the world posted tributes and condolences on Mrs Riley's site yesterday. With her death, the title of world's oldest blogger passes, it is believed, to 96-year-old Maria Amelia Lopez, a Spaniard.

When Mrs Riley was born, Queen Victoria was still on the throne, and Australia was not yet a nation, just a collection of British colonies. She would have turned 109 this October, but was still singing "a happy song" every day with nursing staff just before she died.

Mrs Riley was the youngest of 12 children. She left Broken Hill in the 1920s, a single mother with three children, and was present at the opening of Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1932. She spent her final days in Woy Woy, north of Sydney. One of her friends, Eric Shackle, said: "She had a wonderful memory and an amazing zest for life. Just two weeks ago, she recalled the words of a song that was popular before the Second World War and sang the chorus with me."

A typical Riley post

"You 21st-century people live adifferent 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 fewswitches, and it's done. I remember scratching around to find wood to fire the copper for Mum."

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